Microsoft Will Help Deliver a "Better" Linux
by Kevin Carmony
June 14th, 2007
era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and
Microsoft is over as far as I'm concerned. This is about
getting Apple healthy, and this is about Apple being able
to make incredibly great contributions to the industry,
to get healthy and prosper..."
Jobs - 1997 - Macworld Expo - Boston, MA.
title of this week's Linspire Letter will perhaps surprise
many of you, but I can assure you, it's quite true. Let
most of you know, Linspire has a long tradition of working
with hundreds of software developers and vendors, both open
source and commercial, in order to bring as
many choices as possible to our users. For example,
in our efforts to provide a "better" Linux, earlier
this year we announced our partnership
with Ubuntu, leveraging their exceptional work with
open source Linux. We have also entered into agreements
of commercial companies to offer our users choices with
proprietary software, codecs and drivers. Linspire has always
offered as many choices as possible, and then we let the
user decide which software options are right for them.
Linspire announced our latest partnership, one
with Microsoft, to bring even more choices to desktop
Linux users, and together, offer a "better" Linux
experience. Just as Steve
Jobs announced in 1997 that "the era of setting
this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is
over," I too believe it's time for Linux to do the
same. Rather than isolating Linux, I believe we need to
understand, as Apple did in 1997, that Linux exists in an
ecosystem and must work with and interoperate within that
ecosystem. As unpopular as it may appear to some, Linspire
is willing to take a lead in this effort. Some people booed
Steve Jobs back in 1997, but if you trace the history of
his announcement, I think it was an incredibly smart move
for both Microsoft and Apple, issuing in a new era for both.
believe we can learn a lot from history. Here is a bit more
Jobs comments in 1997, "Apple lives in an ecosystem,
and it needs help from other partners. It needs to help
other partners. And relationships that are destructive
don't help anybody in this industry as it is today.
So during the last several weeks, we have looked at some
of the relationships, and one has stood out as a relationship
that hasn't been going so well but had the potential, I
think, to be great for both companies. And I'd like to announce
one of our first partnerships today, a very, very meaningful
one. And that is one with Microsoft. The discussions actually
began because there were some patent disputes. And, rather
than...repeating history, I'm extremely proud of both companies
that they have resolved these differences in a very, very
professional way. And this has led, I think, to an overall
relationship that we're announcing today that...and we're
extremely excited about." (Watch
the video of this address.)
know that many traditional Linux users who view Microsoft
as "the enemy," will view any partnership with
Microsoft with a great deal of skepticism. Therefore, I
wanted to use this week's Linspire Letter to answer some
of the questions you might have about our new partnership
did this partnership get started?
I said, Linspire has always believed in working with partners
to integrate Linux into the desktop computing ecosystem.
It became obvious to me that we were missing a partnership
with one of the most important participants in that ecosystem,
Microsoft. So, about a year and a half ago, I contacted
Microsoft and asked for a meeting to discuss how we could
work together to make a "better" Linux. I was
confident Microsoft would welcome my invitation, because
I knew there could be an economic incentive for them to
do so. As I had expected, they welcomed my call, and I immediately
flew to Redmond for the first of many meetings over the
following months, taking place in both Redmond and San Diego,
culminating in this week's announced partnership.
why would Microsoft want to help offer a better Linux experience?
the same reason they sell Microsoft Office and other software
to Mac users...it's a worthwhile market for their wares.
I'm sure most Mac users would agree, having the option to
use Microsoft technology with their Apple computer can make
for a better Mac experience. Conversely, being able to use
Apple's iTunes software and iPods with Microsoft Windows
adds to the options on a PC. Over the years, Apple and Microsoft
have learned how
to compete within the same ecosystem, yet still cooperate
and work together in expanding that ecosystem. Linspire
and Microsoft want to encourage this same cooperation in
the PC ecosystem.
good as Microsoft believes Microsoft Windows is, some people
will in fact choose Linux. If Microsoft can contribute in
a win-win way towards a "better" Linux experience,
some people might be willing to pay a little extra for that.
After years in the prominent position of desktop computer
operating systems and applications, Microsoft certainly
has many assets, which can be brought to bear to improve
Linux (technology, interoperability, intellectual property,
distribution channels, marketing, etc.). Every day, Linspire
sells dozens of different commercial
add-on products, that our users purchase to enhance
their Linux experience (DVD players, games, fonts, virtualization
software, etc.). Therefore, it only made sense to see if
Microsoft, with so many available resources, might also
be interested in offering solutions to Linux users.
what ways will this agreement offer a "better"
collaboration with Microsoft will enable Linspire to bring
strong, interoperable solutions to the market, as well as
advance office document compatibility, instant messaging,
and existing digital media programs. This agreement will
offer several advantages to Linspire Linux users not found
anywhere else, such as Windows Media 10 support, genuine
Microsoft TrueType fonts, Microsoft patent coverage, improved
interoperability with Microsoft Windows computers, and so
the press release for more specifics.) My hope is that
this is just the beginning, and in the future we'll see
even more collaboration and interoperability between Linux
is this Microsoft agreement good for Linspire?
many OEMs (the computer manufacturers) choose Linspire over
our competition because they can get Linux with a DVD Player,
Java, Flash, Windows Media, Quick Time, MP3 support, ATI
and nVidia drivers, and so on. This will be yet another
set of options OEMs can now choose from to add to their
Linux PC offerings. Basically, it allows Linspire's distribution
of Linux to more effectively compete in today's desktop
computing world by doing many of the things people expect
and currently get from Apple and Microsoft today.
How much more will I have to pay for this "better"
actually. Linspire has decided to cover the cost of these
enhancements without raising the retail price of Linspire.
Freespire will remain free, and the retail version of Linspire
will remain at $59.95.
this new option be available in Freespire?
for the most part, this new agreement doesn't affect Freespire,
only Linspire. Like the DVD player and other software options
Linspire offers, Linspire must pay a per-unit fee when distributing
this new option. Since Freespire is a free distribution,
we are not able to include it with Freespire. If Freespire
users want these new features (TrueType Fonts, Windows Media
10, etc.), they always have the option of moving to Linspire.
It should be pointed out, however, that this agreement does
include some things, that will be included with Freespire,
such as better interoperability with OpenOffice and Microsoft
will we see this "better" Linux?
with Linspire 6.0, due out in early July.
I have to use this "better" Linux?
As you know, Linspire has always advocated choice, and this
is certainly no different. Freespire will remain a viable
option for those who do not wish to have these new features,
and since it doesn't cost anything additional and we do
include it with all copies of Linspire sold, the features
can be easily removed if you so desire.
this agreement comply with the GPL?
the way this new option is licensed and distributed, it
complies with current GPL and other open source licensing.
I mentioned last week, hopefully the drafters of the
new GPLv3 will take such options into consideration as they
finish their work. It's important that Linux not be relegated
to a 3rd-class player behind Microsoft's and Apple's operating
systems, which do provide for this type of interoperability
with the legacy desktop computer ecosystem.)
this agreement similar to the collaboration agreements Novell,
Xandros, and others have entered into with Microsoft?
but each has had different areas of emphasis. For example,
Linspire's collaboration with Microsoft focuses more on
desktop and laptop computing, as opposed to servers. I think
it's encouraging to see a stronger bridge being built between
Linux and the broader ecosystem.
isn't Microsoft the enemy of Linux?
certainly compete, just like Ubuntu, Red Hat, and Novell
compete with each other, but we all have to
live in the same desktop computing ecosystem.
I'd prefer to use diplomacy and cooperation, than go to
war. Linspire plans on working with Microsoft, just like
we have with dozens of other partners, to build a better
Linux. We will never force anyone to use what we produce.
The choice to use, or not to use, the "better"
Linux we strive to produce will always be up to you, but
I like the idea of finding a mutually advantageous way for
Microsoft and Linspire to work together.
sure some people who feel strongly about this will turn
to other distributions, and I respect that. I do, however,
think many more will end up coming to Linspire Linux for
the enhanced experience they find from a distribution that
works with as many partners as possible in an effort to
make Linux work better. This announcement doesn't take any
choices away from anyone; it just adds one more option.
Choice is a good thing. I'm glad we have lots of them today
as we choose a desktop OS.
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views expressed herein are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the views of Linspire, Inc.