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Microsoft’s 800-pound gorilla

August 26, 2011 11 comments

Yes, I know LinuxCon has come and gone, and I think they’ve got the publicity thing covered, especially with the 20-year thing, the gala party, and with Linus being there and all. The buzz is still going, and that’s good. But if you’re going to a Linux show, make it the Ohio LinuxFest in September. Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting, so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!)

You might think from the title that this is a blog item about Steve Ballmer. Well, this blog item is about an 800-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of Microsoft’s living room, but it’s not that gorilla.

Microsoft fanboys and fangirls have been in a pants-wetting frenzy over the recent Microsoft 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which Microsoft removed Linux as a threat in the document. The implication here to the uninitiated is that Microsoft is no longer worried about Linux or, even more misguided, that Microsoft has “won” its battle with the “cancer” they call Linux.

But as Paul Harvey might say, here’s the rest of the story.

A corporation files a 10-K every year and, in it, outlines some of the pitfalls that the corporation may encounter during the course of the year. Not only is it law, but it’s also clearly a cover-your-buttocks mechanism by which corporations can say to stockholders, “See? We told you there were risks, now that our stock tanked” (if that’s indeed what happens).

In 2008, this was in Microsoft’s 10-K report filed with the SEC:

“Our business model has been based upon customers paying a fee to license software that we developed and distributed . . . . In recent years, certain ‘open source’ software business models have evolved into a growing challenge to our license-based software model. Open source commonly refers to software whose source code is subject to a license allowing it to be modified, combined with other software and redistributed, subject to restrictions set forth in the license . . . . A prominent example of open source software is the Linux operating system. Although we believe our products provide customers with significant advantages in security, productivity and total cost of ownership, [blogger's note: OK, try not to laugh too hard here] the popularization of the open source software model continues to pose a significant challenge to our business model including continuing efforts by proponents of open source software to convince governments worldwide to mandate the use of open source software in their purchase and deployment of software products.”

[As an aside, I wrote a blog item about this in 2008 and I have received multiple hits on that item every day ever since. Every day.]

For 2011, it seems the 10-K adds other factors that would hinder Microsoft. It removes the language that considers Linux a threat and replaces Linux and FOSS with Apple and Google, according to Brian Proffitt’s article on the same issue, “Microsoft disregards Linux as threat. Big mistake.” Brian’s article has a red-lined version of this text, if you want to take a look.

Is it me, or is this a textbook frying-pan-into-the-fire situation? I mean, having to fight Linux and FOSS for market share is one thing — and Windows, um, advocates like to parade around the fact that Linux only has 1 percent of the desktop market, if that.

But now, with Microsoft having to face off with Apple (which is in far better financial straits than Microsoft) and Google (which is in the same excellent financial straits as Apple and far better financial straits than Microsoft), I have to ask: Are the happy-dancing Windows fanboys/fangirls who are so happy about Linux being “vanquished” really that stupid? Would you rather face two stronger adversaries than one smaller one?

With their most recent 10-K filing with the SEC, Microsoft has done the regulatory equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and shouting, “La, la, la — I can’t hear you.”

As Brian points out in his article, Linux is not really out of the picture when it comes to affecting Microsoft’s bottom line. Google’s ChromeOS is Linux and . . . um, there something I’m forgetting about how Linux is trouncing Microsoft in an area where Microsoft can’t get a foothold. Wait, it’ll come to me.

Oh yeah: Android. Based on Linux, Android is cleaning everyone’s clock in the mobile realm, including Apple, and is light years ahead of Microsoft in a category where Microsoft has yet to leave the proverbial runway. Need I say more?

So Microsoft can put a red line through Linux and FOSS and tell the SEC that Linux no longer matters, while Windows partisans pop their corks and chalk up another one for their side. Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth, the reality is much different.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Watching our backs, and paging Dr. Godwin

July 20, 2011 6 comments


OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

Susan Linton at Ostatic writes a blog post about a poll taken by Tuxradar where the question is asked, “Is it time to start trusting Microsoft?”

I’ll wait for the laughter to die down.

The answer is clearly, “No. Absolutely not.” We should not trust Microsoft any farther than Steve Ballmer can throw a chair.

I’ve said this before publicly and despite being rebuked for it, I stand by it even though it’s a somewhat dogmatic position on the issue: You do everything — everything — in your power to keep Nazis from entering the synagogue. Clearly and historically, Microsoft has reveled in their role as digital brownshirts since one of their many ill-conceived, all-conquering goals was to strangle FOSS and Linux — which they consider a cancer — in its proverbial cradle; though 20 years later FOSS and Linux provide a more-than-viable alternative to the products coming out of Redmond, both in a commercial and a personal-computer realms.

Microsoft uber alles? Not on my watch, pal.

So don’t get me started on those who would be like Neville Chamberlain trying to achieve “peace in our time” with Microsoft when the results would more than likely be, well, catastrophic as they were in Europe in the late ’30s and ’40s.

A leopard (even a Snow Leopard, but we’re getting off-topic) can’t change its spots, and to hear folks even discuss bringing up the possibility of working with Microsoft arguably is akin to collaborating with the enemy.

Microsoft’s participation in contributions to the Linux kernel, as discussed here yesterday, is based on fixing virtualization code they contributed to the kernel when it appeared that they had taken GPLed code to include in their program. So their original contribution of the code to the Linux kernel a couple of years ago was to comply with the GPL; fixing it, too, was their responsibility as outlined by the license as well. Do they deserve any special consideration for doing what they’re supposed to do?

To think, even remotely, that Microsoft has somehow “seen the light” and has come around to embrace FOSS and Linux is pants-wetting laughable. Additionally, it remains to be seen how much “participation” will remain now that most, possibly all, of what they contributed may have been fixed this time around. My bet is that we’ll see Microsoft drop like a large stone from it’s “perch” as the fifth leading corporate contributor to the kernel, and very quickly.

So, you might ask — and even if you don’t — what can Microsoft do to earn the trust of FOSS/Linux advocates?

Simple. For Microsoft to earn my trust, they can merely do one thing: Open the code on their products, GPLing or releasing it under another acceptable license — that plain, that simple.

Let’s not hold our breaths for that one, since that will not happen, period. And let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Microsoft, as they are today, even remotely would be a good corporate neighbor — let alone a trusted contributor — in the FOSS/Linux realm.

As my friend Ken Starks likes to say at the end of his blog posts, “All-righty then.”

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Looking back, looking ahead

December 29, 2010 3 comments

Now that I have finally disengaged myself from the what is commercially and socially — and for some, spiritually (and God bless you, every one) — known as “the holiday season,” I have been giving a lot of thought to how good a year 2010 was, the Sun purchase by Oracle and the Novell deal notwithstanding, and what 2011 has to offer.

It looks like 2011 will be the year of the Linux deskt . . . I’m sorry, what? Oh. Well, never mind. Let’s skip that one

Looking back at 2010, most recently we had both Russia and Cuba going to FOSS, which must prove Steve Ballmer right about Linux being Communist. After all, I think a young Linus Torvalds was able to see Russia from his house a lot better than Sarah Palin could from Wasilla. Meanwhile, Red Hat — oh, what’s in a name anyway, comrade? — became poised to be the first billion-dollar Linux company and stats show that they are gaining market share in the corporate server world. Go, Shadowman! And there’s that little green space cadet Android making gains in the various markets where it now works. So despite an Apple/Microsoft shell company buying Novell and the other — and more evil — Larry essentially killing open source at what was once the Camelot-esque Sun, 2010 was a good year.

Of course, 2010 would not be complete without the introduction of Chux, the Linux distro developed by Chuck Norris — A Linux designed by Chuck Norris would require no backups, as it would be too scared of Chuck to fail, and the CPUs run faster to get away from Chuck Norris. You don’t boot it, it boots you. Go here to take a look here.

What would I like to see in 2011? Glad you asked. What would be nice would be:

Digital pundits not saying that 2011 is the year of the Linux desktop, because it’s won’t be. And that’s OK. Believe me, until this year when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, I know the “wait-’til-next-year” drill very well. The year of the Linux desktop will come someday — as it should — but with all the advances Linux is making in server and smaller formats — yes, I’m looking at you, Android — we don’t have to put all our eggs in that basket to determine Linux a success. We don’t have to thump our proverbial chests and say “this year . . . the desktop,” and then when the end of the year rolls around and it isn’t, there’s not a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. To say nothing of garment-rending . . . . The fact of the matter is that Linux and FOSS are as healthy as they have ever been, Novell and Sun sale notwithstanding.


Go to the show: Linux shows and expos are popping up all over, so you really have no excuse in 2011 not to go to one. The established ones, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 9X this year) and OSCON, are now being joined by a whole host of other events throughout North America. Most recently, Indiana gets its own Linux festival in March, aptly titled the Indiana Linux Fest. It joins, in order of appearance (off the top of my head — and forgive me if I forget your expo), SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest in Calgary, Texas Linux Fest, Southeast Linux Fest (in the GNU South), OSCON, Ohio Linux Fest, and Utah Open Source Conference. You’ll find me at SCALE, Linux Fest Northwest, COSSFest (hopefully — if they let me out of the country), OSCON and Utah Open Source Conference on an annual basis.

Oh, and one more thing: Lindependence 2011 will be held in early July, around Independence Day, in Felton, California — where Lindependence started a couple of years ago.

Last, but certainly not least:

Large distros carrying their weight in the FOSS realm: First it was the GNOME study by David Neary that had Red Hat, Novell and others carrying the developmental mail for GNOME — Red Hat and Novell with 10-plus percent each — while Canonical came in at, wait for it, 1.03 percent. Fine. That’s been hashed out already both on these pages and elsewhere. But the Linux Foundation released its annual report on Linux kernel development late in the year — go ahead and get the PDF file here — and while you’re at it, you might want to do a search for Canonical to see how often it shows up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. And I’m just going to leave it at that, hoping that Canonical and/or Ubuntu shows up on next year’s report.

Let’s all have a great 2011.

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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