Open (Source) to Everybody but Microsoft
There's more talk from the Free Software Foundation this week about how it
plans to do everything it can to undermine
the Microsoft-Novell SuSE Linux agreement
. The FSF is worried that letting
the deal slip by will represent tacit acknowledgment that Microsoft actually
owns some Linux intellectual property and patents (something Steve Ballmer has,
uh, mentioned in the
). The Novell deal, after all, included a pretty well-known patent-protection
There's a big problem with what the FSF is doing here. Linux-Windows interoperability
is a good thing for partners and users. It strikes us as odd that the very people
who constantly clamor for Microsoft to be more open to other vendors and systems
and less proprietary are now trying to squash one of Redmond's biggest interoperability
initiatives ever. If they're so confident that Linux doesn't infringe on Microsoft's
patents, why don't they just let this deal go ahead? Is Red Hat just angry that
it missed an opportunity that Novell took (to
Red Hat's peril thus far)?
Hey, we realize that Microsoft is probably in this Linux business for a lot
of reasons, not many of them related to the pure-hearted goal of helping users.
Antitrust issues are likely part of Redmond's agenda (as
they always seem to be), and Ballmer might really be thinking that he can
best crush Linux from the inside by partnering with a Linux distributor, which
is why Novell had better be
careful in how it handles this relationship. So, we understand why the FSF
folks might approach this deal with some caution.
On the other hand, interoperability with Windows gives Linux -- still kind
of a mess of an operating system with its lack of standards -- credibility,
and it's good for customers and partners. Isn't that supposed to be the bottom
line, after all? Plus, it's not as though Novell is the only Linux distributor
out there. The OS will live on even if Novell doesn't -- and we're not anywhere
near that stage. The FSF seems to be operating primarily out of fear and dogma
here, and those are rarely good foundations for business decisions. It seems
as though the open source folks are open to everybody but Microsoft. It sort
of lends a bit of irony to the term "open source."
What do you think of the Free Software Foundation's attempts to submarine the
Microsoft-Novell deal? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Lee Pender on 03/28/2007 at 1:20 PM