Lenovo, Novell partner to offer Linux on the ThinkPad

From Ars:

ThinkPad customers will soon have a new configuration option, as Lenovo and Novell have announced that the popular laptops will begin shipping with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED) preinstalled. Although the ThinkPad has been certified for Linux for some time, this marks the first time Lenovo will ship a laptop with Linux preinstalled—while providing both hardware and OS support. Novell will provide software updates directly to ThinkPad owners, however.
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Lenovo says that the decision to offer Linux on its laptops comes as the result of pressure from enterprise customers. “We have seen more customers utilizing and requesting open source notebook solutions in education, government, and the enterprise since our ThinkPad T60p Linux announcement, and today’s announcement expands upon our efforts by offering customers more Linux options,” said Lenovo VP Sam Dusi in a statement.

SUSE will be available on T-series ThinkPads (Lenovo’s business-class notebooks) beginning in the fourth quarter. Aside from the choice of operating system, the SUSE ThinkPads should be in all respects identical to their Windows-running brethren.

One big difference between this and the recent Dell announcement is that this one focuses more on the enterprise, while Dell is going after the enthusiast. It’s clear that Linux demand is now mainstream, which is great. Lenovo originally made this announcement over a year ago though, and one has to wonder what took things so long to come to fruition. It’s great to see that customer demand was the key driver here. Hopefully that will keep Lenovo committed to the product line. The point where hardware manufacturers have to offer a working Linux driver is near.

–jeremy

Microsoft Statement About GPLv3 II

To answer a question I posed in a previous post about how Novell was going to handle the fact that Microsoft does not want to be a party to the GPLv3 (from the Novell PR Blog):

Shortly after the GPLv3 license was released, Microsoft issued a statement in which they expressed their view that Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 and it is therefore not applicable to them. Yesterday, they also articulated that, “to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates that includes the receipt of any code licensed under GPLv3.”

Microsoft’s current position, taken unilaterally, is intended to eliminate any perceived ambiguity about the applicability of GPLv3 to Microsoft. Nonetheless and independent of Microsoft’s position, we would like to make clear our commitment to our customers that Novell will continue to distribute SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with its full set of functionality and features, including those components that are licensed under GPLv3.

For those customers who will obtain their Linux via a certificate from Microsoft, Novell will provide them with a regular SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription, regardless of the terms of the certificate provided by Microsoft. Customers who have already received SUSE Linux Enterprise certificates from Microsoft are not affected in any way by this, since their certificates were fully delivered and redeemed prior to the publication of the GPLv3. Novell will continue to put the needs of our customers first and ensure that they can take advantage of the latest version of SUSE Linux Enterprise to run their business.

Novell and Microsoft plan to continue our technical collaboration efforts which include our joint development work on virtualization, standards-based systems management, identity interoperability and document format translators. Regarding the applicability of the covenants not to sue in the Novell-Microsoft agreement and their applicability in a GPLv3 world, our respective customers will continue to have the benefit of those provisions. For Novell customers, all Novell products are covered by the Microsoft covenant not to sue, independent of their channel of distribution, including both server and desktop and whether they are licensed under GPLv2 or GPLv3.

Whether things end up playing out that simply remains to be seen. It should also be noted that just because Microsoft doesn’t want to be party to the GPLv3 doesn’t necessarily make it so. I’m not a lawyer and won’t venture a guess as to if certificate distribution binds them legally. The issue is getting plenty of coverage, though, if you’re interested. It does strike me as odd how much ambiguity the huge Microsoft legal team continues to leave, but if that’s intentional or accidental I’m not sure. I also surprised how short sighted and unimaginative Microsoft continues to be. I guess it’s all part of protecting the cash cows. Stephe sums it up nicely:

“The (July 5) Microsoft statement seems a bit premature and over reaching,” Walli said. “Stating outright that they aren’t a party to it, means they’ve cut themselves off from using it in some future circumstance where it might be genuinely business beneficial. They would need to unmake this statement. By saying they can’t envision such a situation arising shows a lack of imagination, and makes them as religious on the issue as (Free Software Foundation founder Richard) Stallman. They remain ‘committed to working with the open source community’ without actually wanting to participate in it.”

–jeremy

Microsoft Statement About GPLv3

A quick follow up on my previous GPLv3 coverage. Here’s the official Microsoft statement:

Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 license and none of its actions are to be misinterpreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license.

While there have been some claims that Microsoft’s distribution of certificates for Novell support services, under our interoperability collaboration with Novell, constitutes acceptance of the GPLv3 license, we do not believe that such claims have a valid legal basis under contract, intellectual property, or any other law. In fact, we do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future. Furthermore, Microsoft does not grant any implied or express patent rights under or as a result of GPLv3, and GPLv3 licensors have no authority to represent or bind Microsoft in any way.

At this point in time, in order to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3. We will closely study the situation and decide whether to expand the scope of the certificates in the future.

It’s obvious why Microsoft wouldn’t want to be a party to the GPLv3, so their official position is not at all surprising. I’m not sure how Novell is going to handle the fact that a certificate that Microsoft gives out does not include support or even updates for GPLv3 software, though.

–jeremy

Red Hat CEO Says He Talked Patents with Microsoft II

A quick follow up on this post based on some questions/comments that I got via email. First, no – I absolutely don’t think Red Hat is currently in discussion with Microsoft to sign a Novell-style patent deal. Note the bolding. They may very well be in some kind of discussion, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If Microsoft privately went to Red Hat with potential patent infringements, even silly unspecified ones, then Red Hat would be obligated to address the issue. That would require discussion. It’s very tough to be the CEO of a public company these days. “No comment” is very often the only answer you can give without the MSM twisting your words in all kinds of directions. Also note that Red Hat may be in talks about specific and valid patents or talks about something completely non-patent related. Who knows – speculation on this is mostly useless. I do remain confident though, that a Novell-esque deal will not come out of this. Don’t forget that RHT is fundamentally an Open Source company. It’s in their DNA and it’s reflected in their employees and culture. Novell had one or two key people leave after they signed the deal. Red Hat would have an exodus. The C-level execs at Red Hat know this. They get Open Source at a very fundamental level themselves, in fact. The following is the last official statement I could find from Red Hat on this topic. In the end, I have no reason to believe that sentiment has changed.

“Red Hat has only recently been able to see some of the terms of the original Microsoft/Novell deal, due to the belated and redacted SEC filings that were made. Based on what we have seen, the deal is not interesting to us. Red Hat continues to believe that open source and the innovation it represents should not be subject to an unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency.”

–jeremy

More Microsoft Patent Dealings

So, Linspire is the latest company to sign a patent deal with Microsoft. They’ve even managed to wrangle some additional items they claim are not in the other deals:

Linspire Inc. has 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.

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 always been more willing than most to include proprietary codecs and drivers, so this is no surprise. While I may not agree with their stance, I do think they are legitimately trying to improve the desktop Linux experience, and you can’t fault them for that (or at least I don’t). I do find it odd that they’d choose to have a demonstrably inferior product in Live Search be the default, but I digress. What’s troubling once again is the inclusion of dubious patent protection. Now, Linspire (nee Lindows) and Microsoft have a tumultuous history. In that vein, this post has some interesting tidbits.

We now have three Linux distributions wrapped up in this patent debate. It was speculated that Mandriva may be next. Based on the profile of the latest two companies, it seemed a logical guess if you had to make one. It’s good to see that they have gone on the record saying that it’s not going to happen. Red Hat already rejected the idea and Mark made his feelings very clear in this post:

There’s a rumour circulating that Ubuntu is in discussions with Microsoft aimed at an agreement along the lines they have concluded recently with Linspire, Xandros, Novell etc. Unfortunately, some speculation in the media (thoroughly and elegantly debunked in the blogosphere but not before the damage was done) posited that “Ubuntu might be next”.

For the record, let me state my position, and I think this is also roughly the position of Canonical and the Ubuntu Community Council though I haven’t caucused with the CC on this specifically.

We have declined to discuss any agreement with Microsoft under the threat of unspecified patent infringements.

Allegations of “infringement of unspecified patents” carry no weight whatsoever. We don’t think they have any legal merit, and they are no incentive for us to work with Microsoft on any of the wonderful things we could do together. A promise by Microsoft not to sue for infringement of unspecified patents has no value at all and is not worth paying for. It does not protect users from the real risk of a patent suit from a pure-IP-holder (Microsoft itself is regularly found to violate such patents and regularly settles such suits). People who pay protection money for that promise are likely living in a false sense of security.

I welcome Microsoft’s stated commitment to interoperability between Linux and the Windows world – and believe Ubuntu will benefit fully from any investment made in that regard by Microsoft and its new partners, as that code will no doubt be free software and will no doubt be included in Ubuntu.

He also goes on to state why he dislikes OOXML.

With regard to open standards on document formats, I have no confidence in Microsoft’s OpenXML specification to deliver a vibrant, competitive and healthy market of multiple implementations. I don’t believe that the specifications are good enough, nor that Microsoft will hold itself to the specification when it does not suit the company to do so. There is currently one implementation of the specification, and as far as I’m aware, Microsoft hasn’t even certified that their own Office12 completely implements OpenXML, or that OpenXML completely defines Office12’s behavior. The Open Document Format (ODF) specification is a much better, much cleaner and widely implemented specification that is already a global standard. I would invite Microsoft to participate in the OASIS Open Document Format working group, and to ensure that the existing import and export filters for Office12 to Open Document Format are improved and available as a standard option. Microsoft is already, I think, a member of OASIS. This would be a far more constructive open standard approach than OpenXML, which is merely a vague codification of current practice by one vendor.

The speculation as to what Microsoft’s end goals are with this remain all over the map. I maintain they themselves may not even be sure yet. One might think they are trying to fracture the Linux market – a sort of divide and conquer. As long as Ubuntu and Red Hat remain on the other side, however, that plan isn’t going to work. The only real loser in that scenario would potentially be Novell. It’s clear that smaller, desktop oriented companies are their current sweet spot, which says a lot in my opinion. Not sure where this is all going, but it’s getting more interesting to watch by the day. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

Xandros signs up with Microsoft

It looks like Xandros has signed a deal similar to the recent Microsoft Novell one. From the press release:

Today Microsoft Corp (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Linux platform provider Xandros Inc announced a broad collaboration agreement based on a set of technical, business, marketing and intellectual property commitments. These commitments provide customers with enhanced interoperability, more effective systems management solutions, and intellectual property assurances, all of which extend a bridge between open source and commercial software and deliver customers real value in mixed systems environments.

For Xandros, the agreement marks a major milestone in its vision of delivering end-to-end Linux desktop and server solutions as well as Windows(R) and Linux cross-platform management and interoperability tools.

“Companies today are running a mixture of Linux and Windows systems,” said Andreas Typaldos, chief executive officer of Xandros. “Cross-platform data centres are a reality. To meet evolving customer needs, vendors need to recognise the value of sharing intellectual property, developing more interoperable solutions, and providing management tools that are familiar and easy to use.”

— Intellectual property assurance. Through the agreement, Microsoft will
make available patent covenants for Xandros customers. These covenants
will provide customers with confidence that the Xandros technologies
they use and deploy in their environments are compliant with
Microsoft’s intellectual property. By putting a framework in place to
share intellectual property, Xandros and Microsoft can speed the
development of interoperable solutions.

— Microsoft sales and marketing support. The companies are committing to
a set of sales and marketing efforts to promote the output of their
technical efforts. As part of this effort, Microsoft will now endorse
Xandros Server and Desktop as a preferred Linux distribution due to
Xandros’ efforts to establish rich interoperability and deliver IP
assurance to its customers. Also, a specialised team of Microsoft
staff will be trained on the value propositions of this collaboration
to customers and channel partners. Xandros will also become a member
of the Microsoft Interop Vendor Alliance.

It should be interesting to see how the community responds to the one. Xandros hasn’t exactly been able to get much traction in the marketplace and this may very well have just been a move to stay alive. Details are a bit light at the moment, but I’d guess we’ll be seeing more very soon. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

Novell Goes Public with MS Patent Agreement Documents

After a delay due to a stock option investigation, Novell has just filed its 10K. The filing includes, as attachments, documents from the recent Microsoft deal:

The text of the 144-page 10-K filing does not get into the specifics of the Microsoft deal, but it does include, subject to some redactions, the full three Microsoft agreement documents: the second amended and restated technical collaboration agreement, the first amended and restated business collaboration agreement and the patent cooperation agreement.

One of the most notable things about the report, according to Pamela Jones’ Groklaw Web site, is that it explains that Microsoft may be forced to stop distributing SUSE Linux coupons if the current text of the third draft of the GNU GPL (General Public License) 3 is included in the final license.

“If the final version of GPLv3 contains terms or conditions that interfere with our agreement with Microsoft or our ability to distribute GPLv3 code, Microsoft may cease to distribute SUSE Linux coupons in order to avoid the extension of its patent covenants to a broader range of GPLv3 software recipients, we may need to modify our relationship with Microsoft under less advantageous terms than our current agreement, or we may be restricted in our ability to include GPLv3 code in our products, any of which could adversely affect our business and our operating results,” the Novell filing said.

“In such a case, we would likely explore alternatives to remedy the conflict, but there is no assurance that we would be successful in these efforts,” the filing said.

That may explain why Microsoft has gone on the offensive about the GPLv3 during the past few weeks, claiming that free and open-source software infringes on 235 of its patents and directing its ire at the upcoming open-source license.

Keep in mind that the attachments do have redactions, which is standard operating procedure for releases like this. More details can be found on Groklaw.

–jeremy