Microsoft’s Bizarro World LinuxCon Sponsorship

Here in the Linux blogosphere, there are several hypothetical scenarios that most agree would surely make the Earth stand still. Flying pigs, of course, is one of them; numerous others, however, involve Microsoft doing something that promotes Linux.

It was perhaps no great surprise, then, to witness the stunned hush that fell over the blogosphere when a recent tidbit of news hit the airwaves.

“Linux Foundation Sponsors Now Includes Microsoft?” was the headline that broke the news last Tuesday, and in no time at all it was all over Slashdot and beyond.

“For the LinuxCon Europe event which is going on this week in Spain, if you look closely you will notice that Microsoft is listed as a Gold Sponsor,” the article explained. The price of said participation? No less than $18,000.

First, you could have heard a pin drop. Ever since then, the conversational din has made it difficult to get a word in edgewise.

‘Linux and MS Have a Common Enemy’

“There is a cold-wave going through Hell,” quipped zrbyte on Slashdot, for instance.

Similarly, “MS has been an enemy of linux since the beginning,” warned Nyder. “Taking their money now just shows that Linux can now be bought off.”

Then again, “as per this [PCWorld] article Microsoft is offering Linux on its Azure platform, so its quite reasonable for a major vendor of Linux services to want to be part of a Linux conference (and I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when I wrote that),” noted OzPeter.

And again: “linux and MS have a common enemy,” suggested TheGratefulNet. “Apple. (only half kidding.)”

‘I Find It Disturbing’

Down at the blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge, FOSS fans had plenty of their own ideas to share.

“I find it disturbing that Microsoft is sponsoring an open source event,” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol told Linux Girl.

“Call me a conspiracy theorist, but Linus’s refusal to adopt GPLv3 on the kernel makes possible the Tivoization (or even a fork) of the GNU/Linux kernel,” Ebersol explained. “This thing already happened with Android, but Google is a more benevolent company.”

‘The Community Should Watch Closely’

Now, “I fear M$ will pull off an Android-like Linux OS and try to dismiss the free software movement,” he suggested. It may not be likely thanks to the GPL, “but since Google already pulled it off, and, as M$ is the copycat company (Zune, Kin, Surface, Bing), it’s not impossible.”

With a “maneuver staged to show ‘Hey, Microsoft has changed’ and ‘This is the new Microsoft,’ all of sudden, Suse Linux becomes Microsoft Linux,” Ebersol continued. “Red Hat, Google and Canonical would suffer a lot with a stunt like that.”

In any case, “in my country there’s a saying, “who lies down with dogs, wakes up with fleas,'” Ebersol concluded. “I do not approve, and the whole community should watch very closely what’s going on in Redmond regarding free software and open source software.”

‘A Crime in My Mind’

Blogger Robert Pogson took a similar view.

“Allowing M$ to join the Linux Foundation or to sponsor events is a crime in my mind, but it is in the spirit of GPL and other FLOSS licenses — FLOSS is available to anyone,” Pogson explained.

“M$ should be in jail, banned from participating in IT forever for what it has done over the decades: exclusive dealing, bullying businesses and excluding competition,” he concluded. “That no government took the trouble to stop M$ from operating is not a reason to accept their money, which is largely illegally obtained by excluding competition and bundling their OS with PCs.”

‘It’s Just Good Business’

“It’s a trap!” began Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

“Seriously, Microsoft knows that Linux is not going away in servers and embedded devices,” Lim offered. “It’s an odd co-existence of competition and co-existence that almost everyone actually lives happily enough with.”

In fact, “it makes sense for Microsoft to ensure that its clients, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone maintain a good degree of compatibility with companies with a Linux backend,” he suggested.

“For Microsoft, software is not about ideology, but about the bottom line,” he concluded. “It’s just good business to support Linux. Ultimately, the real enemy of Microsoft and Linux is Apple, since the ultimate goal of the latter is a completely closed hardware and software ecosystem.”

‘They Need to Look Friendly’

The situation must surely arise from the principle, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies CLOSER!” opined Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C., “perhaps applied both by the Linux Foundation and Microsoft.

“But seriously… they are working on some coding to get their visualization working,” he added. Also, “they need to look friendly.”

Indeed, “one word: HyperV,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told Linux Girl. “MSFT has spent serious money on hyperV, and they want to have their people talk about it.”

In fact, “Microsoft has been making money for YEARS on Linux, buying and bundling SUSE licenses with their WinSever packages, so naturally they are gonna want to talk about the product,” he added.

‘This Is What Victory Looks Like’

“I really don’t mind,” said consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack. “If Microsoft wants to pay to come to a Linux event and make a case for their software, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be entitled to do that.”

Of course, “it is probably not cost-effective to pay so much [to] come to an event full of people not likely to use their products, but that is a question for Microsoft’s accountants, managers and shareholders.”

Similarly, “I don’t know why people are still surprised by this,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien said. “Folks, this is what victory looks like: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.'”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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