Microsoft Woos OSDL for New Linux Offensive

A Redmond executive says he wants to get past the hype and let the chips fall where they will. The OSDL declines comment.

Microsoft has once again stirred up a hornets nest in the open-source community, this time approaching the OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) to work with it on a joint, independent research project to do some facts-based analysis of Linux and Windows.

While some in the Linux and open-source community have questioned why the large Linux vendors have not responded to Microsoft Corp.s aggressive "Get the Facts campaign," which uses mostly Microsoft-sponsored analyst reports to compare and contrast Windows Server with Linux, they would be unlikely to support any joint partnership with Microsoft.

But, undeterred, Martin Taylor, the architect of Microsofts "Get the Facts" campaign and the Redmond, Wash. software firms general manager of platform strategy, has proposed just that to OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen.

The kicker is that Microsoft has also offered to pay for half of the funding costs for a joint research project should the OSDL agree to this. That is seen as unlikely for many reasons, one of which is that Linux founder and lead developer Linus Torvalds and his right-hand man Andrew Morton are both employed by the OSDL. Torvalds is a full-time fellow, working exclusively on driving the development of the open-source operating system.

In an interview with eWEEK, Taylor said that he had been reading an opinion piece in one of the Linux magazines that identified the need for the Linux and open-source community to come up with its own facts-based effort. That motivated him to contact Cohen and suggest this.

Taylor said he sent Cohen, in Beaverton, Ore., an e-mail ahead of the annual Linux World Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, suggesting the idea and asking for a meeting. The two then met at Linux World and discussed the idea and how it would work it broad terms, but there was no agreement of any sort, he said.

Taylor also told Cohen that the research would be conducted by an independent analyst, consulting or business advisory firm on a topic that both felt would help further the dialogue.

Taylor is hopeful that OSDL will take him up on his offer, but a spokesman for the Labs would do little more than confirm the chain of events and declined to comment on what was discussed.

"Stuart Cohen did receive a request from Martin Taylor at Microsoft before Linux World. In part, Martin said he was interested in talking with Stuart about joint research opportunities on some of the issues in the market. Stuart agreed to meet with Martin and they did meet," was all he would say.

The proposal is also not finding favor among the leading Linux vendors. Red Hat, Inc. spokeswoman Leigh Day, in Raleigh, N.C., told eWEEK that Red Hat had no interest in seeing any such initiative with Microsoft, adding that she was not sure how a joint venture with the Redmond, Wash. software firm could ever be independent.

Red Hat also believed that funded research was typically not objective. "We disagree with the idea of using research as a tool to create FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] in the marketplace. Instead we use real-world customer testimonials instead of lab-created, situations to demonstrate the price, performance, scalability and security of Linux," she said.

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