Bonum Certa Men Certa

Media Coverage of the Red Hat-Microsoft Deal Includes Microsoft Talking Points and Moles, No Discussion About Patent Aspects

Summary: A review or a survey of media coverage about the Microsoft-Red Hat deal, which was generally appalling and very much misleading, not just deficient in the sense that it added nothing new

WE are very frustrated to have found very poor coverage about the Microsoft-Red Hat deal. It's disappointing to go one article after another and find almost nothing new. It's just echoing (or parroting) what the companies are saying. There is no real effort to do journalism, reporting, in-depth investigation. Media coverage about the EPO tends to be the same in the English-speaking media.

Katherine Noyes, who used to work for the Linux Foundation, wrote that "Microsoft finally ties the knot with Red Hat for Linux on Azure" (maybe this headline is the editor's, not hers).

Microsoft finally ties the knot with Red Hat? Come on, what is this, a wedding? It's hardly even a shotgun wedding. In an effort to go lyrical they're turning this into a sham and a mockery. The article itself does not really add anything new. It says nothing about the patents [1, 2, 3] because it's a soft piece, not investigative journalism. This article is complete with quotes from Microsoft mouthpieces like the Gartner Group and IDC (part of the employer of the writer, IDG).

“Red Hat, despite asserting they don’t believe Microsoft has any patents that read on their products, included a standstill agreement in the deal. Sources tell me it is carefully phrased to comply with the GPL. If Red Hat felt they had to do that with their new partner, there’s no doubt everyone else remains at risk.”
      --Simon Phipps
We have been having a bit of a deja vu today (and yesterday) because a lot of what's said about the Microsoft-Red Hat deal deal is pure marketing. Shallow and inaccurate, with very few exceptions (usually not in the mainstream media).

Simon Phipps wrote some hours ago that he had "updated [his blog post] to include the patent standstill" (a crucial addition). To quote the amended text: "Red Hat, despite asserting they don’t believe Microsoft has any patents that read on their products, included a standstill agreement in the deal. Sources tell me it is carefully phrased to comply with the GPL. If Red Hat felt they had to do that with their new partner, there’s no doubt everyone else remains at risk."

Yes, exactly. Red Hat has just sold us all out, just because it can help Red Hat attract some customers. This is selfish and even -- if one dare say it -- malicious.

Florian Müller, who used to work for Microsoft (for a while) after he had campaigned against software patents, wrote: "One could argue that challenging all those patents allegedly infringed by Linux in court would have done FOSS a greater service than a deal."

He also wrote: "One *can* be more demanding than @webmink: Red Hat could have brought declaratory judgment actions against MSFT patents on that Chinese list [...] Simon Phipps applies a high standard to "MSFT loves Linux": love should include giving up all related patent rights" (source).

Müller is actually right in this case and this agrees with what we wrote about Red Hat about half a decade ago. For those who forgot, here are some reminders:



The corporate media is full of complete nonsense (no depth at all) about this deal. Watch the coverage in the financial press, calling it ""Co-Location” Partnership" or a "Microsoft Tie-Up". It's more like a sellout.

A lot of such propaganda we have been seeing today while making a partial record of it. Why are the people who cover these issues not familiar with Free software and patents for instance? They're clueless because their critical skills require some knowledge of the topics covered. They're just so easy for marketers to bamboozle. These people should be told by their editor: If you don't grasp it, don't write about it. Just repeating what PR spokespeople and press releases (from notorious liars like Microsoft) say isn't journalism. Sadly, a lot of people who do just that call themselves reporters.

Klint Finley, writing for a large publication, uses words like "Frenemy" and says this: "As recently as 2007, Microsoft was threatening to sue Linux users for patent infringement, though it soon backed down."

With all due respect, this is nonsense. It's revisionism and it's a lie. Microsoft didn't back down, it sued TomTom for instance and it still uses patents for extortion, even under the current leadership. Examples include Samsung, Kyocera, ASUS, and Dell.

Adrian Bridgwater, sometimes a Microsoft apologist (with the openwashing and all), chooses to go with "Microsoft Loves Linux" in his headline (also with an image at the top along those lines, just like Katherine Noyes). This isn't journalism, it's more like Microsoft marketing; why are these people helping Microsoft lie to the public? Do they think it's just fun or funny? It's very irresponsible 'journalism'. Just like Noyes, Bridgwater quotes IDC, but to make matters worse, he quotes "IDC software analyst Al Hilwa". Does he even know who Hilwa is? Did he check? Hilwa used to work for Microsoft, but there is no disclosure of this obvious conflict of interests and he habitually comments on Microsoft as an "analyst" without explaining that he actually came from Microsoft. Bridgwater's article is shallow and nothing about patents gets mentioned. What is the reader supposed to conclude from it? The headline says "Microsoft Loves Linux", the image at the top says "Microsoft Loves Linux", and the article quotes as an 'expert' a person from Microsoft who pretends to be independent. What a coup!

One of the better articles we have found on this subject came from Sam Varghese and was titled "With Microsoft and Red Hat in bed, what happens to SUSE?"

To quote Varghese: "The Microsoft-Novell deal — SUSE was then a part of Novell — was initially signed in 2006 and, after its initial five-year term, was renewed in July 2011 for a further five years until the end of 2015. It has hardly two months left to run.

"There has been no word from either SUSE or Microsoft on what happens next. SUSE's leaders are currently in Amsterdam attending the company's annual national conference."

It is a good article and it makes some valid points. It is rather reassuring to know that some real journalists still exist out there. They may not be loved by all (far from it), but therein lies a yardstick for success. Journalists who never piss anyone off are probably just cowards who don't do the job they're supposed to do, which is unearthing new information, not repeating talking points packaged and delivered in bite sizes for so-called ambitious 'journalists' to paste into a Microsoft Word document, then dispatch to a self-censoring editor (censorship based on the publisher's sponsors' expected reaction). Real journalism can hurt people's feelings; 'safe' 'journalism' (puff pieces to appease or invite advertisers) does not.

Finally, as well as the important/enlightening quote below, we wish to remind readers that patent 'peace' with a company like Microsoft does not protect any entity from satellites of this company, e.g. patent trolls. Remember that shortly after Novell had signed its patent deal with Microsoft both itself and Red Hat got sued by the Microsoft-connected Acacia for patent infringement. It wasn't the last time, not even from this one single satellite (there were settlements down the line even as recently as 2 years ago).

"In a world where there are $500 million dollar patent infringement lawsuits imposed on OS companies (although this is not completely settled yet), how would somebody like Red Hat compete when 6 months ago they only had $80-$90 million in cash? At that point they could not even afford to settle a fraction of a single judgment without devastating their shareholders. I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue. All of them are not asking for hundreds of millions, but most would be large enough to ruin anything but the largest companies. Red Hat did recently raise several hundred million which certainly gives them more staying power. Ultimately, I do not think any company except a few of the largest companies can offer any reasonable insulation to their customers from these types of judgments. You would need a market cap of more than a couple billion to just survive in the OS space."

--SCO's Strategic Consultant Mike Anderer



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