Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sam Varghese on Dell/Microsoft-Novell

Update: Just as I finish writing the post below, I hear this news.

Sam Varghese plays a little on the Star Wars theme with "The empire strikes back".

The article is pretty straightforward. Sam mentions the Microsoft/Novell deal eventually bringing SUSE to Dell's plate. As well, the news of Dell's deal with Canonical to support Ubuntu. This all gets mixed into a reasonably pessimistic outlook for "Linux" with Microsoft playing dominant bully. Sam says,
"There's a message here from Microsoft that little people should not mess with the big boys. There is space for only one 800-pound gorilla and it sure isn't Canonical. Microsoft is by far the biggest player in the industry. It is also the most paranoid. The only way it knows to keep its products on top of the sales list is by knocking off competitors, using any means that will work. The spread of Linux (sic) on the desktop is not going to come from the efforts of any big industry player; it is only going to come from concerted efforts by smaller players."
I see what Sam is getting at and agree. However, what I found missing in Sam's article was any mention of how GPL3 figures into this. Perhaps Sam is reasonably convinced that the Linux kernel will never move to v3? And even if so, does it really matter? After all, though important, Linux is just one program.

Perhaps if we see the situation in a different way, we may find a "big industry player" inadvertently helping FOSS along. This help comes not from the hardware company Dell, but from Microsoft itself. And it's Microsoft despite its "gorilla"-like tactics. This is so because what is happening is not so much about "Linux" as it is about the GPL. Microsoft's very effort to subdue the GPL is simultaneously blowing wind on the back of the FOSS turtle. Slow and steady with a sprinkle of serendipity. Serendipity thanks to a "paranoid", "800-pound gorilla" generating a considerable karmic gale.

Obviously, the patent deal expressed in SUSE is not what many FOSS supporters would describe as "ideal". But with GPL3, is that aggression not just sedated, but turned back upon the aggressor? Is it possible Sam, that Microsoft shot themselves in the foot? Is "the only way it knows" its worst, long-term enemy?

I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

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Blogger Tom Hoffman said...

The Novell deal allows Microsoft to stick its finger in the Linux pie to a certain extent and make us free software advocates unhappy and uncertain, but let's not go so far as to think that these changes work to Microsoft's advantage. There should be no doubt that Microsoft would rather not have Dell distributing Linux pre-installed on the desktop at all, and no doubt that we're better off with Dell doing so for either Ubuntu or SUSE.


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