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07.24.08

Sharing a Bed at OSCON with “the Next SCO Group”

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, SCO at 5:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document that.”

Bill Gates

A

lot of ambitious people turn soft at the sight of money. That’s just how Microsoft manages to infiltrate so many open source events and share its own (self-serving of course) point of view. The monopoly needs to build and defend the illusion that it’s just a friendly scorpion. While many inside Microsoft might believe this, the top management at Microsoft does not. it’s a publicity stunt, as proven several times in the past.

“It’s means of pressuring them to open up their gates to Gates.”Those who organise an open source event and refuse Microsoft’s attendance will most likely be called names. It’s means of pressuring them to open up their gates to Gates. Just watch Microsoft’s persistence with the OSA. A lot of this was dealt with before, so it needn’t really be repeated or elaborated on. OSCON was already mentioned yesterday. Also see our writings about OSBC 2008 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and the issue of personal proximity.

At OSCON, Microsoft presence could not be ignored. In panels comprising only corporate players, Microsoft apparent role was irksome to some. Need it be mentioned that Microsoft paid OSCON (O’Reilly) for this? Mind our highlight in red.

Let’s rewind a bit. My Monday afternoon at OSCON 2008 was taken up by “Participate 08″, a Microsoft-sponsored discussion panel chaired by a whole panopoly of folks — including, yes, an open source liaison from Microsoft. The whole thing was neither a “corporate apologia” (as one wag put it from the audience) nor a pile-on where Microsoft got the worst of it. Their approach was only one of a diversity of perspectives, and sometimes not even the most eyebrow-raising.

Remember that Microsoft is also behind OSBC, which is about ‘commercialising’ “open source” — whatever that actually means. In the last OSBC event, Microsoft stole the show with a talk about software patents. That was Brad Smith and his keynote. It ruined the conference, which was sponsored (and apparently initiated) by Microsoft anyway. Shades of SourceForge (hijack, then instill fear and change principles).

Here is another interesting article.

The biggest sparks flew over the question of motivation — why individual developers choose to participate in open source. Several of the panelists mentioned pragmatic motivations such as self-education, career development, and desire to be associated with what is perceived as a successful and ethical movement. Since those motives apply to corporate participation, this line of discussion prompted audience member Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center to ask the panel whether the session was a cheerleading session for commercial open source.

[...]

Interestingly enough, the topic Lakhani predicted would elicit the most debate — intellectual property — provided well-balanced, reasoned discussion.

All panelists agreed that IP was important in open source software. As Randall pointed out, if the framework of software licensing created to serve the proprietary software industry did not exist, then the GPL would not exist either. O’Mahony added that many nonprofit entities use IP law to accumulate, integrate, and protect information that is vital for future development.

Urlocker described MySQL’s frustration with software patents, including waffling on behalf of hybrid proprietary/open source companies, and fear on the part of pure open source organizations that lacked the resources to wage a legal fight over software patents.

Wilbanks lamented use of the blanket term “intellectual property” to conflate copyright, patent, trademark, and trade secret law — concepts that have little to do with one another. Copyright law is incredibly powerful, written to serve publishers, and hinges on one fundamental: the right to sue someone else. Under these circumstances, he said, “we’re boned.” In the future, he hoped, open source can make better use of trademark concepts like branding — where the fundamental issue is the right to associate your work with something valuable. When the desire to claim association with a brand like “open source” is of bigger concern than the desire to sue, the conditions will be right for open source to thrive.

Lastly, see this blog post from a Sun/MySQL executive. He reminds us of how irrelevant Microsoft becomes to developers (Novell, Miguel de Icaza and their followers aside).

One skeptic remarked to me after the panel session that for Microsoft this is just a “photo op.” That is, it’s more about the appearances than anything else. I’m not sure whether that’s the case or not, but it’s still a question in many people’s minds. And as Brad Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center pointed out, many people still remember when Microsoft was trying to kill open source.

The irony of all this is that I think Microsoft is at risk of missing out on the next generation of developers. What’s in use at the hot startups these days? Hint: it’s not about VB, C# and .Net. Even startups by ex-Microsoft folks at companies like iLike are using the LAMP stack. I think for a lot of developers, Microsoft is less and less relevant. Which is a shame.

People deserve to know what Groklaw has to say about all of this Pamela Jones wrote: “I think it’s dangerous to let them anywhere near anything that matters until they pledge not to sue FOSS over patent infringement. All they are doing now is taking notes, I believe, and I am confident it will use what it learns against the community when it feels like it. And I wish everyone would get a bit smarter, so we at Groklaw and the legal contingent of the FOSS community don’t have to fix the mess you make. Yes. Seriously. I would suggest treating Microsoft as if they were already suing you personally. Because I believe they will.” She also believes that Microsoft is the next SCO.

At times like these, when Microsoft is quietly struggling, the worse one can do is throw Microsoft a bone. It’s prepared to bite. In order to understand the severity of the issue and of Microsoft’s fears, read this article from last night:

Top Microsoftie Jumps Ship

[...]

The loss of Johnson comes as a blow–he was widely considered to be in the running to one day succeed CEO Steve Ballmer.

In some people’s eyes, Microsoft has just lost its #2 man only weeks after Bill Gates had stepped down.

If some people out there still believe that Microsoft ‘understands’ (or groks) open source — let alone “open” — this one is a must-read for them.

Redefining Openness (with lawyers)

Ah, there we go! The surprise of the day really comes from -would you have guessed it?- Microsoft.

[...]

Now that’s an open standard of the open kind, open as in “open, but not open”; “open but actually quite closed” “open but get out of here”, open as in “open to the good old boys”, open as in “open to your money and to our profits”, open as in “open deception”. And of course, who thought OOXML could be that open? I’m sure the rest of my colleagues at the Afnor will be left in shock and awe when they learn the news. Everything they ever truly believed in , OOXML, was never thought in those terms. I can’t wait for XPS, guys, we’re going to have tons of fun, really. I am also waiting for Microsoft’s possible, albeit unlikely, explanation to this. I’m laughing so hard I’m about to roll on the floor.

Never forget what Microsoft once said about “openness”.

[More Open Than Open]: “I am constantly amazed at the flexibility of this single word.”

Jason Matusow, arrogant xenophobe from Microsoft (for some background see [1, 2])

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