OSDL Stands by Linux

CEO explains why he nixed Microsoft's joint research offer.

Martin Taylor, Microsoft Corp.s general manager of platform strategy, recently approached Open Source Development Labs Inc., in Beaverton, Ore., to consider ways in which the two could conduct a joint research project to do some fact-based analysis of Linux and Windows. OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen talked to eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli about OSDLs future relationship with Microsoft and why he rejected the proposal out of hand.

Do you believe a campaign similar to Microsofts Get the Facts is necessary and would be beneficial for the Linux community?

I told Martin [Taylor] that I was happy to work together with him on some things but that I was not sure a research paper was the best thing to go and work on.

I told him that what would happen is that well invest in a 100-page report, 99.9 percent of which will be great for Linux and the acceleration of open-source software, etc., and there may be one page or just one line that will talk about something negative, something critical, something that needs improvement, and [Microsoft] will then run a $100 million advertising campaign around a single sentence from one page of a 100-page document and will ignore the other 99 pages.

I would, then, forever be involved in trying to explain our involvement in such a shenanigan, and thats the part I cant have. So I told him that while I was happy to go and work with Microsoft on something, I cant let [Microsoft] run full-page ads in newspapers across the world for months on end around just one sentence of a 100-page document.

What was Taylors response to that?

He said that we would have to write some very tight terms to make sure that something like that could never happen, and then he laughed and I laughed. He knew as well as I that would be impossible to do. But we also talked about a follow-on meeting with himself, with [Microsoft General Counsel] Brad Smith. We talked about a series of things that we may be able to do together.

Can you be more specific about what, exactly, OSDL would be willing to work on with Microsoft?

As you look at the acceleration of Linux on the desktop, making Office available to run on top of Linux is something I think we could work on together, especially to meet the needs of those Global 2000 customers with a large number of Linux servers, which they are growing rapidly and are matching their number of Windows servers.

Going back to the issue of sponsored research—what is your view of that for the Linux and open-source community? Is there any talk at OSDL about using sponsored research to promote Linux and counter Microsofts Get the Facts campaign?

Well, I think right now the quarter-over-quarter growth figures for Linux, both on the units and the revenue side, speak for themselves. There is such momentum in the marketplace at the moment. Its not as if people are asking us for that type of research. They are not asking for additional documentation. There is no need for us to do such a campaign.

When you look at the acceleration of Linux, most of it is coming from the disruption of Unix and new, additional installations. There is no point in having a study about whether Linux should replace a Windows server, as there are very few Windows servers in the world getting replaced with Linux servers.

So what do you think Microsofts Get the Facts campaign is a reaction to?

It is a reaction to the fact that Linux is having tremendous success and affecting [Microsofts] server deployments, especially among new lines of businesses and new rollouts. These are the areas where Linux is having tremendous commercial success, along with the conversion of Unix servers, which is going to Linux and not Windows.

Microsofts Taylor has said that the basis for his idea of a Linux, Get the Facts-type campaign with OSDL came from an article in a respected Linux publication, which indicates people in the community are questioning whether you should consider such an approach, right?

We had nothing to do with that article. We are not getting a lot of requests for research. We are seeing a lot of requests for interoperability, a lot of requests around security and desktop initiatives as well as around mobile professionals. We have three customer advisory panels: in Europe, Japan and the U.S. None of them is asking us to do additional market research, as having more data is not critically important for them.