Thursday, June 14, 2007

Microsoft hooks Linspire

When you shake hands with Microsoft, count your fingers afterward. San Diego's Linspire may find that out, courtesy of an agreement it signed with Microsoft to make their computer operating systems work together better.

The deal was promptly attacked by prominent Linux supporters, who see it as part of Microsoft's long-term strategy to neuter a rival operating system it sees as a growing threat. Linspire sells a version of the non-proprietary, open-source Linux operating system. Microsoft, of course, sells its ultra-proprietary Windows operating system.

"Through this agreement, the companies will work to advance office document compatibility, enhance instant messaging interoperability and reinforce existing collaboration on digital media," the companies said in a June 13 press release announcing the deal. "In addition, Linspire will be providing its customers with the option of acquiring a patent covenant from Microsoft for customers operating the Linspire desktop."

Microsoft has been threatening legal action against Linux users, claiming that the non-proprietary software includes its intellectual property. The deal with Linspire is the latest in a series of non-aggression pacts Microsoft has signed with Linux makers, including Novell, Xandros and now Linspire.

Microsoft claims that Linux and other open-source software violates 235 of its patents. However, Microsoft has not identified the allegedly infringed patents. Defenders of Linux say Microsoft is attempting to scare companies away from using Linux by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, known by the acronym "FUD".

In the press release, Linspire chief executive Kevin Carmony said the agreement will make it easier for Linspire users to share documents and technologies to make Windows and Linux work better together. Read the entire press release here.

“Linspire has always been about choice, and this announcement continues our tradition of offering options for improved interoperability, enhanced functionality and confidence," Carmony said in the press release. "Over the years, in an effort to expand choice, we have entered into dozens of agreements with commercial software vendors. It certainly made sense to collaborate with Microsoft, one of the most important partners in the PC ecosystem."

However, Groklaw one of the foremost Web sites devoted to defending Linux and other open source software, said the deal is really about Microsoft's attempt to lock down all Linux competition. Microsoft will use these agreements to intimidate those using other versions of Linux not covered by its agreements.
Groklaw's post: "Linspire joins the plot:" is recommended reading. Find it here.

If you want to support Linux against Microsoft's suspiciously warm bear hug of an embrace, there are numerous other versions of Linux to use. There's Debian and Ubuntu Linux, for starters.

For those who don't understand how Linux works: take this Linux 101 online course..

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