For the last six years my job situation has made me wary of commenting on the politics of the free software movement and its enemies, but I have just changed jobs (been a busy week round here) and now I feel I comment freely on what every free software advocate has always known as Public Enemy Number One: Microsoft.
Except, now the time has come, I don’t really feel they are any more. Indeed I feel free software is more threatened by one of the teams that is meant to be on our side – Google, which has embraced the world of software patents and user abandonment with enthusiasm and by another, Apple, that uses Unix but seems oblivious to the idea of user freedom.
Now, I am not saying that, because Microsoft have found themselves in recent months as one of the biggest contributors to the Linux kernel, and marked the 20th birthday of Linus’s famous usenet announcement of a new Unix-like kernel with an appeal for more co-operation, they really are our friends. But we should recognise that the change – even if it did come because they were dragged through the US and EU courts – is a real one. They are at least recognising that we are here to stay and that the server room of the future will be running multiple OSes on virtualised machines of different flavours.
On the desktop our side is still nowhere – perhaps still under 1% globally and the boys and girls in Seattle might quickly turn nasty again if we ever did start to crack that nut, but in the meantime we maybe should be testing just how sincere that offer of co-operation really is… afterall they are not offering to work with us because they think we are weak!
Update; Thanks to the retweeters. Think I should point out my proposal of a compromiso historico with Microsoft is a minority view – as the links below probably suggest.
- As Attachmate Distances Itself From SUSE, Commitment to UNIX Copyrights Doubted (techrights.org)
- Microsoft Charm (techcrunch.com)
- Can We Trust Microsoft? (ostatic.com)
- Linux at 20: New Challenges, New Opportunities (pcworld.com)
- Microsoft Plays Dirty PR Games to Daemonise Sceptics of Convicted Criminals (techrights.org)
- A Brief History of Linux (techebook.wordpress.com)