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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linux-Watch: "Linspire, Microsoft in Linu

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Linux-Watch: "Linspire, Microsoft in Linux-related deal"
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 09:58:30 +0200

Linspire, Microsoft in Linux-related deal 

Jun. 13, 2007

Linspire Inc. on June 13 announced an agreement to license voice-enabled
instant messaging, Windows Media 10 CODECs, and TrueType font
technologies from Microsoft for its Linux distribution. Additionally,
Microsoft will offer protection to Linspire customers against possible
violations of Microsoft patents by Linux, Linspire said. 

In his June 14 weekly Linspire Letter, Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony
stated, "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 on."

Linspire has long made an effort to bundle proprietary CODECs, drivers,
and software with its Linspire and Freespire Linux distributions, as a
way to offer users a Linux OS that works with a wide range of popular
multimedia formats and browser plug-ins, and can play DVDs out of the

Another area of cooperation will be on technology for interoperability
between documents stored in OpenXML and the Open Document Format, as in
the Xandros/Microsoft agreement announced on June 5. 

Additionally, in a blow to search engine leader Google, Linspire will
make Microsoft's search engine the default Linspire 5.0 web
search engine, "allowing Microsoft to bring Live Search to a broader set
of users and providing leading search capabilities to Linspire
customers," a Linspire news release said.

In a news release, Linspire detailed the three key technologies it will
be licensing from Microsoft, for use as add-ons to its Linspire Linux
distribution, as:
Instant messaging -- Linspire will license Microsoft's RT Audio Codec to
promote voice-enabled interoperability between Linspire's Pidgin
(formerly GAIM) instant messaging client and Microsoft's instant
messaging clients for business, Microsoft Office Communicator, and, for
consumers, Windows Live Messenger.

Digital media -- Future releases of Linspire will now support the latest
Windows Media 10 audio and video codecs, allowing Linspire and Microsoft
Windows users to better share digital media files.

TrueType fonts -- Linspire will license popular Microsoft TrueType
fonts, including Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Verdana, so
Linspire users have improved experiences creating, editing, and viewing
files and documents.

Additionally, as with both the Xandros/Microsoft and earlier
Novell/Microsoft agreements, this new Linspire/Microsoft agreement
reportedly will offer protection to Linspire Linux users against
possible infringement of Microsoft patents by Linux. Microsoft CEO Steve
Ballmer claimed on May 14 that "Linux violates over 228 patents," but to
date Microsoft has not detailed any alleged infringements.

In addition to the Novell/Microsoft and Xandros/Microsoft deals,
Microsoft on June 7 announced an agreement with LG Electronics said to
enable LG to use Microsoft patented technology in its product lines,
including in its Linux-based embedded devices.

Meanwhile, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has been busy preparing a
final draft of the GNU General Public License Version 3 (GPLv3) that
contains language aimed at making these kinds of patent pacts a
violation of the license. As of this writing, however, the top Linux
kernel developers appear unwilling to migrate the Linux kernel to GPLv3
from GPL2, or to utilize a combination of both GPL licenses.

This deal between Linspire and Microsoft is particularly interesting in
light of the earlier bad blood between the two companies. Linspire was
founded in 2001 by Michael Robertson under the name, "Lindows." In July
of 2004, after several years of threats and saber rattling by Microsoft,
which claimed that "Lindows" violated its "Windows" trademark, the two
companies reached a settlement, whereby Microsoft was rumored to have
paid Lindows $20 million to change its name to Linspire, transfer its
Lindows-related domain names to Microsoft, and otherwise abandon its use
of the term, "Lindows."

In the June 14 weekly "Linspire Letter," Carmony said, "Today, 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."

Regarding the genesis of this deal, Carmony explained, "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."

In its news release announcing the Microsoft deal, Linspire noted that
in order to receive the three newly licensed technologies -- instant
messaging, digital media, and TrueType fonts -- Linspire Linux customers
will need to "purchase" a "patent SKU." That is, the technologies are
"not shipped with all Linspire 5.0 distributions." However, in his June
14 Linspire Letter, Carmony stated that there would be no increase in
the retail price of Linspire to accommodate the costs of these
technologies, "which will remain at $59.95." 

Presumably, the touted protection against possible infringement of
Microsoft patents by Linux will also result from "purchasing" the
"patent SKU."

Freespire, the free version of Linspire Linux, will remain free, Carmony
added, but "for the most part" will not include these technologies, nor
the patent infringement protection offered by Microsoft. "If Freespire
users want these new features (TrueType Fonts, Windows Media 10, etc.),
they always have the option of moving to Linspire." However, better
interoperability between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office will be
available to Freespire users, he said.

Financial terms and other details of this deal have not been revealed.


"Live cheaply," he said, offering some free advice. "Don't buy a house,
a car or have children. The problem is they're expensive and you have
to spend all your time making money to pay for them."

        -- Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman: 'Live Cheaply'

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