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September 24th, 2015

Microsoft’s Linux OS & Open Source Cred

Microsoft has gone and built a Linux distro. Well, maybe it’s not a distro but some sort of Azure switch to use in the cloud. But anyway, Microsoft want’s you — meaning you open sourcers who never do anything but throw brickbats at the fine folks in Redmond — to know that it’s built on Linux. So there. Microsoft does love Linux, as if there was ever any doubt.

Microsoft logoGreat. Just great.

I’m sure they would’ve preferred to build their switch-masquerading-as-an-operating-system on Windows, but they couldn’t figure out how to pull all of the crap they didn’t need out of the Windows bloat. Of course, they could’ve used BSD and made the whole kit and caboodle proprietary, which would be more their speed, but that wouldn’t have given them any open source cred, which they’re so desperately trying to garner. Since there’s no need to make it proprietary as it’s going to be sitting on Azure where it can be used without ever having to show the source code, why not use Linux to prove their newfound love for open source?

Yup, indeed. Microsoft loves open source. Or, as Ross Gardler kept telling us over and over and over again during his presentation for Microsoft at the first All Things Open conference two years ago: “Microsoft completely gets open source.”

As Starkist used to say, “Sorry, Charlie.”

If Microsoft really wants to get accepted as a legitimate open source player, there’s a few things they need to do first. Here’s a short bucket list that’ll get them started:

  • Show us the patents: For years, Microsoft has claimed that Linux infringes on 235 Microsoft patents and have even tried to shake down, sometimes successfully, some enterprise players who use Linux. Meanwhile, unless things have changed and somebody forget to tell me, the company refuses to divulge exactly what patents Linux is alleged to violate. Meanwhile, practically everyone and his brother thinks this is all hokey FUD and that the patents don’t exist, if for no other reason because Tux could never ever violate anyone or anything.

    Here’s an idea that’ll help put Microsoft on the road to FOSS cred: just give it up. Show us the patents, so Mr. Torvalds can get his crackpot team to work fixing things so Linux is no longer in violation. And if you don’t really have the patents and never did, I’ll give you a couple of ways to get out of this without losing face: Just claim that Linux used to be in violation but that’s no longer the case, or that the patents have expired.

    If the patents do exist and Microsoft is really, really serious about becoming a bonefide open source player, you could just offer Linux a free, non-expiring licence to all these patents with no restrictions. This would make life so much easier on Linus, as it’d free him from having to fix what isn’t broken. It’d also save a lot of wear and tear on his voice from the obscenities he’d be forced to scream while bringing Linux into compliance.

  • Give us some patents: Join the Open Invention Network and throw some patents into the pool. Here you could kill two birds with one stone (assuming they’re not penguins) and just use the 235 patents you claim Linux infringes, which would take care of the problem mentioned above. While you’re at it, sell off some stock or something and make a sizable donation to the project.
  • Show us the money: While you’re writing checks from your nearly unlimited bank account, why not make some donations to some worthwhile FOSS projects? Certainly, most of us would understand if you didn’t help fund LibreOffice, a project that might step on your competitive toes, but I’m sure that you could find a project or ten to which you could feel comfortable contributing.

    And since you’re making so much money now from Linux, both by letting folks fire up the distro of their choice on Azure or from your new gee whiz Linux-operating-system-switch, you might want to write a check to the Linux Foundation. How much? Well, that’s up to you, but I’ll remind you that IBM has been known to spend a billion at a time to further Linux development — and that’s in thirteen year old dollars. It’s hard to believe, but a billion bucks ain’t what it used to be.

  • Port your apps: It would also help if you would port all of your crappy programs to Linux. It’s not that we really want them or would actually use them, but we’re tired of hearing how Office and Excel won’t work natively on our operating system. Just so you know, there’s nothing in the GPL that would force you to give them away for free, so you could still charge an arm and a leg for them. Who knows? There might be some poor fool out there using Linux who’d be willing to pay you.

Now, I can’t guarantee that Microsoft would actually get the open source cred they want by following these steps. There are a lot of decades of bad blood to overcome. But it couldn’t hurt and would be a start anyway.

Then again, maybe our readers have some other ideas…

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Latest posts by Christine Hall (see all)

7 comments to Microsoft’s Linux OS & Open Source Cred

  • Richard Thornton

    I like the post but I don’t follow why the animosity exists between Linux purists over BSD. As a matter of fact, the only truly open OS which exists is OpenBSD – no binary blobs in its kernel; that’s not the case with Linux. The GPL may grant users total freedom, but not necessarily the best software.

  • The reference to BSD wasn’t intended to show any animosity to BSD, Richard. It was just a reference to the fact that Microsoft could’ve followed Apple’s lead and used BSD, where the license would permit them to make their “OS” proprietary, which they can’t do with Linux because of the GPL.

  • Mike

    Like everything Microsoft does, it is merely a calculated attempt to show they are kind and sincere whilst actually helping nobody but themselves.

    Microsoft does get open source…and it terrifies them. Rightfully so, since users who can control the behavior of their own computers and data completely demolishes Microsoft’s plans for control and surveillance.

  • BillH

    Are you sure you meant to say “Show us the patents, so Mr. Torvalds can get his crackpot team to work fixing things so Linux is no longer in violation.”, or did you really mean to say “Show us the patents, so Mr. Torvalds can get his crack team to work fixing things so Linux is no longer in violation.”

    I’m not sure anyone would want to be on his crackpot team, but there’s probably quite a few wanting on his crack team!

  • GregA

    Mr. Torvalds couldn’t care less about hacking anything MS.

    And, MS will not reveal any “alleged” patent violatons because they could be debunked outright (prior art), or challenged in court.

    That would jeopardize their 1+ billion annual “shake-down” revenue stream from thousands of companies worldwide.

    Get a clue BillH . . it’s been Apple & MS that have been copying Linux for at least 10 years now . . . as in virtual desktops for example.

  • Mac Taylor

    Whatever Microsoft can’t copy or buy they steal. They’ve been caught violating GPL before.

  • Eddie G.

    I mean, does it really matter? I cannot think of ONE person I know, who uses Open Source software…that has approached me to say “Gee,…I wish M$’s version of Whatever-ware worked with my version of Linux” I mean lets fce it people, there’s never going to be a “free” version of ANYTHING from Microsoft, (including Windows 10, a lot of people are running around giving praise to Microsoft for making Win10 “free” not realizing that if they’d read up on it, they would have discovered that after that first year? Win10 will NOT be free anymore! (Can’t you just see the faces of Gates?….Ballmer?…and even Sadella?….looking at you like you’re Rain Man, saying: You want us to GIVE the OS away?…..for NOTHING?….have you lost your MIND!!??…..LoL!) Bottom line is, that when Win10 is no longer free the things you used to be able to do, well, certain things anyways, will propmt you that you won’t have full functionality, or full access until you “activate”….or “certify”….or “update” your version of Win10. SO limited access to apps or programs, maybe evne complete lockout form them. And the inability to do anything about it until you pay……versus using a laptop….a desktop……racking a server, with an OS that is financially free, is securty hardened, and can be configured anyway I want it to be? Yeah….no….I don’t think I’m interested in anything that comes from Microsoft. Let them have their version of Linux run on their hardware or whomever’s and leave me and my LibreOffice…..Midori…..GIMP…..Brasero….MariaDB and other offerings alone. I personally feel M$ has been bullying the other kids in the playground for so lon, that none of them want to befriend him! LoL!