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.
Great. 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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