Linux

First Novell, now Xandros signs up with Microsoft


Xandros ServerShrugging off the previous uproar in the open-source community, Microsoft has just signed a set of broad agreements with Linux provider Xandros that includes patent protection for Xandros customers.

The five-year deal for joint development is similar to the one Microsoft signed with Novell Inc. last year and where Microsoft said it wanted to enter into similar pacts with other open-source providers.

The patent clause in the agreement fueled the ire of detractors because it was seen as an endorsement of Microsoft's claims that open-source software violates some of its patents. Some in the open-source software community fear that Microsoft would use it to back intellectual property claims against others further down the road.

Their concerns are probably not unfounded as Microsoft has previously accused Linux and Open Office of tripping up to 235 Microsoft patents, though it declined to say what or why.

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What do you think? Is a legal showdown between Microsoft and the open-source community inevitable? Join the discussion.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

37 comments
paulmah
paulmah

What do you think? Is a legal showdown between Microsoft and the open-source community inevitable?

alexpaton1969
alexpaton1969

I really am glad that I live in Europe where the protection of consumers from corporations is taken a little more seriously than in 'some' other countries I could mention. With the expansion of Europe, I almost hope that Microsoft do take them on. I can easily see European countries rebelling and going linux. I can't really see free (in both senses of the word) software being suppressed by major corporations. It's out there, it has huge popularity, and with government clampdowns on illegal downloading, fills a market. I don't think that Xandros could be considered big news in this general story since they have long been one of the most closed and non free of the linux community. Notice that microsoft only goes for the ones who charge.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's a two year old story; it's not news, big or otherwise.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm a non-user of Linux, and a user of very few open source products. Can someone explain the significance of this contract and the one with Novell in small words a Windows user can understand? The legal wranglings of this (and the GPL 3 debate) can be confusing to those of us who are used to dealing exclusively with proprietary EULAs. Thanks.

grax
grax

The present situation is not about Open Source against EULA. It is simply about the defence of Microsoft?s virtual monopoly of PC operating systems. Economists and financial pundits will tell you that a monopoly (single trader in a market) is the ultimate purpose for which Capitalism strives because it gives total control of the market, its products and prices. They will also tell you that this is very bad for the market, the products and the consumer ? you and me. By accident and design, Microsoft has developed a near monopoly of the PC Operating System market. The result is a product range that is expensive, defective and doesn?t always do what the consumer wants. Competition is the key. We?ve already seen that a small drift of people from Internet Explorer to Firefox and other browsers obliged Microsoft to update their product. Linux is a potential competitor. If Microsoft can stifle this competition they can continue to make obscene profits from the sale of defective goods that they have no obligation to fix. As Paul says, they do this but the use of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt). For you, the Windows User, this may seem to be largely irrelevant, except that it isn?t. You are the real victim in all this. You bought a shiny new car called XP (or maybe Vista) only to find that there was a wheel missing. When you went back to the manufacturer for the missing/defective part they supplied a ?new? one, but the tyre was flat. That?s what Microsoft Updates are like and there is no incentive for things to change.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm still using MS software but it's not 100% of my understanding of computers anymore. Long before looking past the borders of the MS echo system, I thought of this. If MS was a car manufacturer, they'd be selling cars with loose stearing, semi inflated tires and no seatbelts; all cars in the same lovely shade of blue with green filed highlights. Any other car manufacturer who provided a car like that would be out of business (And Ford nearly was with the Model T). Any other software vendor who provided a product like that would also be out of business. I like the new analogy a bit more though; you get home to find out yoru missing a wheel so you go back to the dealership and they are happy to sell you a "replacement wheel" but it's half flat. They'd be happy to sell you a little more air (seat licenses) too fill the tire fully if you'd like. If you want to stick with the car analogy, I currently see MS about where Jaguar was (70'ish?) with a very shnazzy looking car that one couldn't keep on the road. When it died frequently, the only place to get parts was the Jaguar dealership. Sure it's pretty but it runs like a mook. Now, Jaguar got better about product quality and so too should MS. Really, it is in the best interest of the end users. If MS is threatened enough to improve product quality then the end user wins. If MS looses market share to something that proves itself better then the end user wins out. This is why end users should be very interested in seeing MS threatened or replaced by a technically better solution. It's not even an MS vs someone else thing, it's MS focusing on the investors rather than the customers.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not sure how else to take, "You are the real victim in all this." As regards slamming, I'm also not sure how else to interpret, "You bought a shiny new car called XP (or maybe Vista) only to find that there was a wheel missing. When you went back to the manufacturer for the missing/defective part they supplied a ?new? one, but the tyre was flat." It certainly isn't a compliment. I'm also not sure what you mean by "a wheel missing" or "keep changing tyres". I can usually follow an auto analogy, but you've lost me on this one.

grax
grax

?I said I don't understand the significance. If I thought it was irrelevant I wouldn't have asked about it in the first place.? Fair point and you received a perfectly good explanation of the ?significance? from Freebird54. I merely chose to expand on the basic point in an effort to provide a fuller picture of the situation. ?Don't try to make me feel like a victim; I'm not.? I regret that you?ve chosen to take my comments personally. What I said was ?For you, the Windows User,??, meaning ALL Windows Users. That, by the way, has included me, since the days of MSDOS! The vast majority of Windows Users are tolerant and seemingly content with their lot. They don?t feel like victims are all. They think it's quite normal to keep changing tyres. For them there is no significance in the recent agreements so they (the agreements) and anything else to do with Open Source is indeed, irrelevant. Ignorance is bliss! You, on the other hand, are trying to make informed decisions in areas where some, if not all, of the protagonists are trying to muddy the waters. The purpose of this whole debate has been to help you cut through the disinformation. ?Why must EVERY question about a Linux issue be used to slam Microsoft products and users?? Actually, they don?t and, if you read everything that has been said in this discussion, Microsoft?s products and clients have not been ?slammed?. It is Microsoft?s conduct and intentions that are in doubt. Their track record isn?t good. Most convicted felons re-offend.

paulmah
paulmah

The concern here is that it legitimizes any (potential) future legal action by leveraging upon the implicit (some might say its explicit) recognition that Novell and Xandros is giving to Microsoft in the context of patent rights. But having said that, I'm no fortune teller. So it sure does not mean that I'm right at all! :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It does nothing to explain how this particular agreement (or the Novell one) stifles competition. From my ignorant point of view, it looks like it enables it. Doesn't it free Novell and Xandros from having to worry about future patent violation lawsuits from MS?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I said I don't understand the significance. If I thought it was irrelevant I wouldn't have asked about it in the first place. Don't try to make me feel like a victim; I'm not. I bought a shiny new XP that works just fine for me. It meets my requirement for an operating system: it runs the software I want to run. There are some maintenance trade-offs, but they are ones I'm willing to make. Why must EVERY question about a Linux issue be used to slam Microsoft products and users?

paulmah
paulmah

Very nicely summed up on why Windows users should be concerned as well. :)

Freebird54
Freebird54

of this contract is rather difficult to determine. This is because of MS's track record of dealings with other entities over the years. It has been historically difficult to determine whether it is more dangerous to be a friend to MS or an enemy! This means that is very hard to figure out whether these moves are (from MS's perspective) are to cover its own backside (as there can be no doubt about MS infringing patents - they have been found guilty often enough already) or whether this is to be used in some way to damage their competition. Either is possible, and when the gorilla is this big one has to have a certain wariness at the least. Earlier versions of the GPLv3 tried to limit the ability of software covered by its provisions to be used in any way by commercial software interests - or to force those using it to disclose currently proprietary software/patents in use with it under the same terms as it itself uses. This has been backed off considerably, but some remnants of the 'intentions' still remain. The real issue seems to be mistrust of MS intentions at the moment - noone can believe that good intentions are the root of their actions - especially when you see such things as OOXML being foisted on the computing world. Is there something smaller forces can do to forestall the MS juggernaut, or not? Hope this helps - though it hardly covers all the issues you raise...

grax
grax

The simple answer to your question is: If Linux distro providers do not conform, then YES! That Microsoft will not say exactly where there have been infringements of their copyright is significant. The threat is obvious. Nobody in the Open Source community can afford to even think about taking on a monster that?s made $40 Billion so far this year. Game over. A valid complaint about Linux is the confusingly large number of offerings. One possible advantage of this ?New World Order? is that it?s going to make choosing a distro much easier.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

A user can *choose* from a selection of distrobutions to find one that conforms to there needs be they simple or higly conveluted big iron setups. That includes systems pretuned for media work, broadcast work, security work, desktops, servers or whatever. Then still, within the distrobutions a user has the freedom to take the distrobutions default recommendation or choose from all available competing products as a true free market is supposed to work. If you look at anything from far enough back you can say "eesh, it's just a huge mess with far too much choice" and FOSS is no different but standing that far back is really only an excuse to justify not looking at it from closer.

paulmah
paulmah

I feel part of the reason why certain open-source projects are so utterly, wildly successful is because somehow their passion were triggered off. Projects like Apache, Tomcat, PostgreSQL, Geeklog, the list goes on. Literally tens of thousands of hours poured in by volunteers for free in a "labor of love"

DanLM
DanLM

There was over 1000 entries on it. Basically, I it was a KMA microsoft. And I agree, completely. They don't have the guts to release what specific patents they feel that are being infringed on because they will then be open to the same type of law suit. And Microsoft's batting average is not that good right now when it comes to court case's. Europe and the United States. And also individual States suits against them. I think Microsoft should watch what they do considering this past history in court. The could end up spending all their time in court, loosing focus on what they supposedly do best, and actually losing. But, considering their past release's... I don't really think they care what people think of their products anymore. Dan [i]edited to add: [/i] I use a lot of MS products, and doubt very much that I will ever move off them for other products. The point of my post is their past history both in court and bullying tactics and what people think of them because of this history.

paulmah
paulmah

You know, I use loads of MS products too. Including the various iterations of Visual Studio. And yes, their products generally work very well and are well integrated and tested on the most part. My stance is similar to yours; I use MS products and will continue using them. However, its business practices do cause me to be concerned.

paulmah
paulmah

You know, it smells of a FUD campaign to me. MS is probably not going for any legal 'action' at this point, but no harm playing out the FUD aspect as far as possible.

tonylewis
tonylewis

Darth Vader: "You will join us, or you will die!"

Why Me Worry??
Why Me Worry??

and I used to be one of those hard core CNEs' that would defend Novell and their products to the death. That was before my career almost ended up in the crapper because everywhere I looked, corporations were dumping their Netware, NDS/eDirectory, and GroupWise systems in favor of Windows 2003 Server, Active Directory, and Exchange Server 2003. Novell had a good grip on the market back in the 90s' before the dot com bust, allowing me to profit very well from the numerous installs I was involved in, but as soon as Y2K rolled around, I started to see a rapid deviation in the market from Novell to MS products. Needless to say, I have abandoned pursuing Novell technologies and renewing my CNE and am instead focusing my efforts on Microsoft products and an MCSE certification. It's Novell's own fault they are losing customers because they can't market their products, as they keep preaching to the choire, and they have been adopting the arrogant "upgrade or lose support" MS tactic which has until now kept their customers loyal to them. It is any surprise that they are losing customers because they fail to listen to their customers when a product they produce doesn't integrate well or keeps on crashing the server it's running on?

paulmah
paulmah

My company still has 2 server running ancient versions of Novell Network. I must say that it runs just rock stable - attesting to the original superb engineering of the product perhaps. Though, as you pointed out, support for such an 'old' product is non-existent.

paulmah
paulmah

Now if only I can convince my management of it. Wait a minute, if I could, I would have convinced them to move off those legacy systems long ago...! Oh well...(mutter in background)

Why Me Worry??
Why Me Worry??

I'd be happy to support such legacy systems, but I would charge a fairly high hourly consulting rate for my time, which most companies would balk at because they think they are being gouged. Well, think of it this way...if you are running an old legacy system and there aren't that many skilled folks out there to support it, wouldn't you expect them to charge higher rates based upon your demand for that skill? Supply and demand economics 101.

SysAdminII
SysAdminII

Just from what I have been reading, it sounds like Microsoft is going to infiltrate into Linux and slowly force more and more patents laws and totally restrict the open source community. I realize that a lot of companies want to be able to integrate more into the Windows world where we can be more unified but I am afraid that Linux is going to end up with a multitude of restrictions just like Microsoft. We might even end up paying for a Linux disk just like we do for Microsoft, which defeats the whole purpose of open source.

paulmah
paulmah

Hopefully that will not happen so soon. Open-source is really slowly but steadily gaining steady ground in the enterprise. We just rolled-up an IPCop firewall. Totally free, but it works really well - much better than the Zywall hardware firewall it is to eventually replace in fact.

mgordon
mgordon

Free disks... "We might even end up paying for a Linux disk just like we do for Microsoft, which defeats the whole purpose of open source." I've always thought that "Open Source" simply means you get the source code and you must provide source code for your own GPL'd coding. Authors can certainly charge for the disks, and GPL does not, as I understand it, forbid selling Open Source software (see Red Hat and others). Open Source is not entirely synonymous with Free Software. Quite a lot that Microsoft makes available is free software but not open source. Conversely, RedHat Enterprise server *is* open source but not free!

Absolutely
Absolutely

Ultimately, all software must compete on its merits, and if GNU/Linux ever is effectively subsumed by Microsoft, we all lose.

grax
grax

?We might even end up paying for a Linux disk just like we do for Microsoft, which defeats the whole purpose of open source.? Not wishing to be contentious, but being able to get software without paying for it might seem appealing, but isn?t what Open Source is about at all. Putting that aside, people already pay for some commercial distros. I was happy to pay for Red Hat 5 when it first appeared, just to find out what all the fuss was about. Suse demanded payment long before Novell snaffled them up. If a thing is worth having it is worth paying for but there?s no way I?m going to pay double what Americans pay for Vista just because Gates is pissed at the EU. Neither will I pay over-the-odds for Apple hardware, which leaves only one route. Up to now it's been a fun experience and, largely, free!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They are the more political of the two FOSS poles and don't at all underestimate the value in "not cost"/"free usage" confusion. I tend to hear "free as in speach" more from the Open Source people focused on technical qualities rather than political gains.

paulmah
paulmah

I guess part of the fault could be that the FSF has never really tried to dispel or actively correct people's nothing of open-sourced being "free of cost". Then again, it could just be have been they gave up long ago.. :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's partily due to english using the same word to mean "at no cost" and "for use with liberty". If we all spoke spanish then Libre Software would make perfect sense since the focus is on freedom of use not retail cost. That's not to say that anyone is overlooking the benifits of advertising "libre software and at no cost" of course. It's just that in this case, English use of "free" causes confution. This confusion was also one of the reasons for "Open Source" beign coinced and opensource.org being setup. Well, that and keeping the internet browser market from benig dominated by one software vendor resulting in the Internet effectively being controlled by a single vendor instead of open standards.

paulmah
paulmah

You're right of course, that open-source is not just about getting a free lunch. Though the Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org) is not shy about using the word "free" and "open source" in the same sentence. :)

hoagies
hoagies

IBM (=donation of 500 patents to Linux), "samba", the original "suse developers", and "hordes" of others, must be totally "aghast" by the new "machinations" of the "Evil Empire".... What's M$ gonna do: Become the copying machine "par excellence" of this Century???

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