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Mark Shuttleworth Still Dislikes Microsoft’s Linux Deals

Posted in Formats, FSF, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Interview, Kernel, Microsoft, Open XML, Ubuntu at 4:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Canonical and Ubuntu Founder, Mark Shuttleworth, has had an interview that contains a lot of interesting information. Here is what he said about the deals with Microsoft:

9) Do you think Microsoft’s patent deals are just an attempt to slow down Linux, or do you think there might be some genuine interest in cooperation?

[Mark:] That’s a complicated question because it suggests that Microsoft has one single opinion. But like any large organisation, Microsoft will have people internal to it who have a variety of different opinions. So I definitely do believe that some of the folks who are working at Microsoft on the patent deals have a genuine interest in seeing interoperability across Windows and across the free software platform. Unfortunately, I think other people at Microsoft do feel it’s a way of limiting the field of engagement between the free software world and the proprietary software world, and making sure that Microsoft effectively has a competitive advantage in that engagement.

At this stage, all of the deals that have been announced really are very advantageous to Microsoft, and create real barriers to the complete a pervasive adoption of free software. In addition to that, I do think that Microsoft attempts to have its own file formats declared a standard in very bad faith. Because they’re pretending to create a standard when in fact the only thing that comes close to implementation of that standard is the Microsoft Office application. And the real value of a standard is to have something which is agreed upon by lots of different groups and implemented by lots of different groups. And that’s just not the case with Microsoft’s file formats. More importantly, I don’t think they will allow other people to implement the standard, they’ll simply change it to suit themselves.

So, Microsoft is a large organisation and I think there are people with good ideas and with bad ideas. It’s not simple. I don’t think we can simply say that the whole organisation is being constructive or unconstructive. I think we have to look at specific initiatives. Unfortunately, their OpenXML document standard initiative is being driven with poor intention at heart.

As you can see, the patent deals have a great deal to do with OOXML. Some of our readers have failed to see the connection, but given the fact that many organisation refuse to depart from Microsoft Office because of “incompatibility”, the important of ODF is obvious. A universal format is desperately needed. Microsoft does not want such a format unless it controls, ‘extends’ it, and already has it fully implemented.

Also interesting is the following new interview with Richard Stallman. The headline says “Stallman: If you want freedom don’t follow Linus Torvalds.” As you may recall, Torvalds does not fight back against the Microsoft deals. He tries to keep quiet and uninvolved (the passive approach). See the links at the bottom of this post for further details.

The summary from the interview with Stallman is this:

The founder of the Free Software Foundation asks readers whether they will fight for freedom or be too lazy to resist.

Returning to the interview with Mark Shuttleworth, consider this question and answer:

10) While Richard Stallman is an outspoken critic of the so-called tivoisation, Linus Torvalds just doesn’t mind when Linux is used in proprietary devices. What is your stance?

[Mark:] I do think that DRM, tivoisation, or locked down hardware and software are all a real threat to continued spread of free software. And so I very much support Richard Stallman [interview] and the Free Software Foundation in bringing those issues to the front in the debate of GPLv3.

At the same time I think we have to respect the kernel community’s choice to license their software under whatever license they choose. And the kernel community has consistently taken quite an open approach to allowing people to do pretty much what they liked with the Linux kernel code. It’s not entirely true, but it’s true in many cases. The main thing to point out though is that this really is not an issue for free software. In Ubuntu we ship software under, maybe, a hundred and fifty different licenses. So adding GPLv3 as the hundred a fifty-first license is not a problem at all and Linux will continue to progress, regardless of whether the kernel team adopts v2 or v3. As for myself, I think v3 is a very good license, I think it went through a very strong public process, and I think it’s a much better license in the end than it was when it began. So I think there’s every reason for the kernel community to consider it, but if they choose not to adopt it then that’s fine too.

Interesting take. Going a weeks or months back we find other yet similar perspectives.

Mark Shuttleworth quotes (about the Linux deals):

That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as [Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game…


Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: ‘It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,’ that’s illegal. It’s racketeering. What Microsoft is doing with intellectual property is exactly the same. It’s a great company and I have great admiration for it, but this was not a well considered position.


Linus Torvalds about Microsoft FUD, the software licences, and the Linux deals

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