Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Jun 2007 18:51 UTC, submitted by WillM
Linspire Kevin Carmony, CEO of Linspire, writes: "With the recent news of several Linux vendors entering into partnership agreements with Microsoft (Novell, Linspire, Xandros), there has been much debate recently about two factions of Linux forming. Saying that Linux is going to be torn in two, makes for good press and lively debates, but this is certainly nothing new for Linux."
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RE: Withs and withouts
by butters on Fri 29th Jun 2007 04:23 UTC in reply to "Withs and withouts"
butters
Member since:
2005-07-08

The Linux community is split into as many factions as it has users. That large numbers of users happen to use certain distributions and share certain preferences is merely a social phenomenon. We're every man for themselves, each with the freedom to express our individuality through code, words, art, politics, and the interaction thereof.

What binds us together is our use of copyleft, share-alike copyright licenses that ensure that our unique contributions to the remain the sovereign property of the community. This is a powerful notion, and it is not surprising that some users feel compelled to pay and trade for confirmation of such valuable rights.

I consider this not unlike charity, and although there are software vendors more deserving of voluntary donations than Microsoft, the honest among us will admit that there are less deserving firms as well. Voluntary compensation for the use of free software in no way affects one's right to use it without compensation. My donation to Ardour, for example, does not affect anyone else's right to use Ardour without payment.

As free software becomes more prominent, businesses will find all manner of excuses to pay and trade for rights in software that has been freely distributed for anyone's use. Businesses make deals; it's what they do. They're not used to doing business with parties that offer the same non-exclusive deal to everybody. They're going to look for ways to use their assets to get a deal that seems different and better.

Those of us that find this game disturbing must realize that by distributing free software, we continue to assert our right to do so, and this right has never been challenged. By distributing free software, the few distributors that have signed patent covenant deals with Microsoft continue to assert their right to do so without these deals. These distributors want to offer their customers a different deal. It doesn't matter if the difference has no real value, because people value difference in and of itself.

These vendors and their customers have found a way to express their individuality by making and accepting deals with Microsoft. It doesn't make sense to many people, but it makes sense to them. There are several commercial Linux distributions to choose from, but only some of them come with a special message of forgiveness from Microsoft for one's decision to chose a competing vendor.

Some of us have borderline irrational and obsessive relationships with particular free software projects. Many businesses have a similar relationship with Microsoft. Free software can appeal to all sorts of people and their wide spectrum of preferences and neuroses. Let them get their special promise from Microsoft. It's silly and unnecessary, but we've always accepted eccentricity in our community.

Now is not the time to start alienating those with an unhealthy fear of Microsoft. Our community is well-equipped to treat this condition, and many of us believe that it is our moral obligation to reach out of Microsoft addicts. Microsoft is telling their frightened customers that its ok to use some kinds of Linux.

Hopefully after realizing the benefits of free software, these converts will also realize that they don't need Microsoft's permission to use free software. They can chose whatever free software they want, and there's nothing Microsoft can do to them. Let them discover freedom.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[2]: Withs and withouts
by niemau on Fri 29th Jun 2007 05:38 in reply to "RE: Withs and withouts"
niemau Member since:
2007-06-28

you have put together a well thought out post. unfortunately your logic is flawed. there is a very real wrong vs. right in this case. people and corporations are swallowing what basically amounts to extortion and justifying it by calling it 'interoperability'.

nice try.

want *actual* interoperability? start by adhering to established and accepted standards, for one. no patent 'agreement' required. linspire is perfectly welcome to license WMA or whatever the hell they want. if their customers demand it, people will buy it. but, by signing any agreement referring to violated patents that the supposedly infringing software developers and users are essentially forbidden access to, they're screwing the community. period. kevin carmony and co. have essentially said through their actions that all of the hard work and innovation of the open source community was stolen from microsoft. freaking microsoft!

given microsoft's track record, i am honestly flabbergasted that there are still (honest) people defending their actions.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Withs and withouts
by butters on Fri 29th Jun 2007 07:55 in reply to "RE[2]: Withs and withouts"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

there is a very real wrong vs. right in this case.

First of all, I'm not defending the patent covenants. I think that this situation is exhibit A in the case against software patents and the broken patent system in general. I agree that there is a right and wrong in this case, and I think that the community has spoken. Red Hat, Canonical, Mandriva, and all of the community distributions have rejected the patent covenants. Novell and a few "also-rans" have distanced themselves from the community, and the GPLv3 presents a threat.

These deals are likely to backfire on these vendors, and I can't imagine how they could cause any legal setbacks for the community. These alleged patents will never be argued in court. By signing these deals, Microsoft has put themselves in a situation where it would be incredibly inexpedient for them to sue any Linux vendor or user for patent infringement. The community knows that, the mainstream media knows that, and the corporate world knows that.

Carmony and friends know this, too, but they also understand the basic point I made in my original post. They knew making patent deals with Microsoft would be meritless and unpopular in the Linux community, but they also knew that it would be popular among Microsoft-dominated small business IT shops.

They decided that the Linux community would moan and groan for a while, and meanwhile they would get their foot in the door of an SMB market that they believe is ripe for the picking (it's not). The vendors that made these deals are the ones that lust after the SMB market. It doesn't matter for the vendors that target the enterprise and the public sector, which are more realistic and profitable markets for commercial Linux right now.

Novell, Linspire, and Xandros are mismanaged companies that make bad decisions. The Microsoft deals were classic examples. These vendors pose no threat to the Linux community. The market will ultimately take care of them.

people and corporations are swallowing what basically amounts to extortion and justifying it by calling it 'interoperability'.

The thing is, it's not extortion. The Linux vendors aren't charging anything for these patent covenants, which reflects the fact that they have no real value.

Microsoft says these deals are about patents. The Linux vendors says they're about interoperability. Bull. These deals are about a marketing strategy where Linux vendors sell the idea that Linux can play nice in a Microsoft environment, and Microsoft sells the idea that adopting Linux doesn't mean abandoning Microsoft technologies. Some Linux vendors insist on trying to beat Microsoft at their own game on their home turf, and Microsoft is happy to keep the dream alive.

i am honestly flabbergasted that there are still (honest) people defending their actions.

Not defending. Explaining. Why these deals happened, why they don't matter, and why they will fail.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Withs and withouts
by hamster on Fri 29th Jun 2007 11:32 in reply to "RE[2]: Withs and withouts"
hamster Member since:
2006-10-06

Linspire cant talk for the hole open source community. They might think they can talk for the linux community but the open source community is so much more then just linux. Which you seem to forget when you claim that they have ruined all of the hard work done by the open source community. But other then that we pretty much agree.

Reply Parent Score: 3