Summary: Microsoft is paying companies — in the form of discounts — in order to give the illusion that everyone respects Microsoft’s argument that Linux infringes on Microsoft IPR and that software patents are universally scary. This payment is akin to those OOXML briberies where Microsoft offered money to partners in return for support. Novell was paid as well, for a variety of things, including IPR FUD and OOXML support.
Digging a Little Deeper…
THIS is rather rare and it is very hard to find truly investigative journalism. Yes, investigative journalism, as opposed to those who are just echoing press releases and phonecalls/E-mails from companies’ PR departments (or hired peripheral agencies), whose goal is to force-feed journalists with disinformation and hyped-up ‘infoggerations’.
One fine example of investigative journalism is, sadly enough, also overly restrained. Consider this example of Microsoft machinations. It is one which only reaches the light of day in the blog of a journalist, but not in actual articles that receive wider exposure. This was the story behind a more nominal story.
About Today’s Story…
Today, we wish to present a story that is hidden behind another story, which is equally interesting. It is the story behind Microsoft/Novell coupon deals. It is a story the companies will not tell you about (and neither will journalists, who are deliberately kept in the dark). As some background, consider this item which explains how Novell uses GNU/Linux FUD to market itself.
“The voices behind the scenes need to be heard too and this site seems like a good venue for this.”Let’s look at the anatomy of a Novell/Microsoft coupon deal, shall we? It is a well-coordinated marketing plot, which is described by a leak we have just received from an anonymous concerned witness. The voices behind the scenes need to be heard too and this site seems like a good venue for this.
The source tells us that the events were observed a long time ago, so there is no danger of the company’s identity being known (never mind identifying the source of this leak). In fact, after Novell sealed deals with dozens of companies large and small, it would be impossible to say which is which. Let’s call it $Company from here onwards, as though it’s a parameter.
Here’s How It Works…
SLES/SLED vouchers (yes, that’s essentially GNU/Linux support/patent ‘licences’) were offered to $Company by Microsoft. Mind the fact that it’s Microsoft, not Novell. We have said and seen this before, but it’s worth hearing from a bystander or eyewitness. This confirms the fact that it’s in Microsoft’s interests to have companies ($Company in this case) ‘hooked’ on a GNU/Linux distribution which Microsoft gets paid for. Also, by later announcing this, Microsoft uses $Company’s credentials as some sort of implicit acknowledgment that patent ‘protection’ is needed for GNU/Linux deployments. It’s precedence that builds expectations.
What was interesting and revealing about Microsoft’s approach is how it came about, though. The deal offered sported a massive discount in SLES/SLED support from Novell for every voucher. In other words, to Microsoft, successfully promoting a ‘Microsoft tax’-encumbered GNU/Linux distribution is even worth ‘sponsoring’, probably for the reasons cited above.
The exact figures when it comes to the discount were not known, but they were very significant. We’re talking about high double-digit figures (%-wise). This reduction in support charges per voucher is so significant that it makes one wonder if Novell and Microsoft are interested in getting people ‘addicted’ to (maybe even stuck with) SUSE more than they are interested in actually making money, at least in the short term. Remember those infamous Windows-only, SuSE-only “interoperability” hooks and shims.
“Remember those infamous Windows-only, SuSE-only “interoperability” hooks and shims.”Depending on the size of the company at hand (never mind the size of $Company), significant amounts of money can be seen as savings. If you are a small business looking for a GNU/Linux server, then you’re looking at some nice savings that cannot be ignored. Medium-sized deployments can probably even help create new jobs by saving so much money. For large companies, this is highly significant. If you look at hundreds of thousands of instances (let’s say Google, which has about a million, according to analysts), this type of saving may reach several $billions. Google uses Red Hat and Debian by the way, for all I can tell based on readings and past interviews with them, but they rarely require outside support.
Whatever the number may be, the discounts are very significant. It begins to look very compelling from a straight commercial perspective.
More interesting is another curious fact: Microsoft is apparently offering companies seats on the board of the “interoperability” committee run between Novell and Microsoft. Small customers need not apply, but we have already seen some interesting inclusions in all sorts of “interoperability” labs. This seems like part of the “interoperability” buzzword stunt.
If you thought that was bad enough, then wait. There is more. It is a requirement of the offer that a press release is issued to announce deals. The press release needs to be a joint statement, which means that $Company gets to say what it wanted, but Microsoft would get to say what they wanted, i.e. $Company would have no control over the statement that it is willing to make. It is natural to assume, based on previous press releases, that Microsoft wants to inject its “patent” and “intellectual property” poison (FUD) into the press release.
It has generally been accepted that the “intellectual property” argument from Microsoft is false, but one cannot get the discount without Microsoft getting something back. In other words, Microsoft gives discounts in return for “intellectual property” FUD against GNU/Linux. It’s using SUSE to achieve this.
All the Pieces Come Together
These joint press releases are something that has not escaped my attention (and Shane’s). But now we know how the plot works. The same goes for OEM 'recommendations' of Vista; even obvious things require solid proof.
What remains more of a mystery is how Microsoft approaches GNU/Linux distributors and gets them to surrender. Turobolinux’s fall, for example, was gradual. It first accepted OOXML servitude and later it swallowed a patent pill even though it knew that it would not be grandfathered by GPLv3, unlike Novell. We have heard some stories from Jeremy Allison about how Microsoft fools Linux companies, but each and every situation is probably different and unique.
One must wonder not only why/when/how Turobolinux, Xandros, and Linspire surrendered (and received money to do so as well), but also how Microsoft approaches companies like Red Hat, Canonical, and Mandriva. We have found some stories about this game of mating and wooing, which luckily never materialised, i.e. so-called ‘raping’ efforts have been unfruitful to Microsoft.
This is very significant. We have already seen the threats and arm-twisting Microsoft is pulling against large corporations to make them buy “we-won’t-sue” vouchers. What a racket. The tactics needed to get publicised. And now they are, so they can be cross-referenced. This carries the untold element of this branch of stories. █