Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How Microsoft plans to appropriate Linux

The state of affairs right now is that Linux is a highly desirable and free technology, and any Microsoft of this world would love to "embrace, extend, extinguish" it from the landscape. This however is problematic because Linux, including the kernel, are licensed under GPL, and GPL says "if you agree to this license you agree to distribute the source code of YOUR programs you distribute with this product [in our case Linux] under GPL as well. if you do not agree, you may not distribute this product." This is the biggest obstacle for Microsoft, because they are too afraid to open source their code.

Or is it? Turns out, not so much. What would happen if customer Z to whom company X wants to sell a closed-sourse product running on Linux, already had Linux? Then company X could get away with not distributing Linux, but still selling their product on top of it. Now, what would happen if Z obtained a copy of Linux just for that purpose from another company Y? The scheme would still work, except that two companies are now involved with Z which means double responsibility for the final product for X and Y (and Z does not likes this), and split profits for X and Y (and X does not likes this). Now assume that X and Y enter into agreement, under which they promise to "integrate" their technology (but not bundle it together), and integrate their customer support (keeping it technically separate, but providing the customer with a single "phone number") as well as advocate each other when negotiating a deal. Now Z is happy, the proprietary product is effectively distributed with Linux but not GPLed, and X and Y are laughing all the way to the bank. The one thing remains? For either X or Y to try to screw the other over the profits.

Unlikely scenario? If you think about it, this is pretty much what Microsoft just did with their deals with Xen and Novell, and you can guess which one is X yourself. Welcome to the New Order.