CyberTech Rambler

May 9, 2007

Beware of companies PR

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:08 pm

Microsoft says Linux has “unaccounted liabilities” when it signs the pack with Novell to distribute SuSE coupons. Not surprisingly, Novell said No then they agree to defer. Microsoft than paraded some customers who got the SuSE coupons. Now we have Seattle PI claiming in the article title (but probably not in the article) that Dell is blessing the agreement. Dell is quoted as saying the Windows-Linux bridge is good and so is the patent agreement.

Frankly, why do Dell cares about software? It is a hardware company after all. It has been selling naked PC (PC without operating system) for which many had been converted to run variant of Linux. The advantage of Windows-Linux bridge, and the “perceived” advantage of the patent agreements, are just tools to help drive more hardware sales for Dell,… and this is all Dell cares about.

If the patent agreement is so important and impressive to Dell, why is Dell trumpeting the announcement that it is going to see computers with Ubuntu preinstalled? Surely a reputable company like Dell should not put its customers at risk of “Unaccounted liabilities”. OK, may be Dell thinks that only small fries like individual customers buy Ubuntu and they will not appear on Microsoft’s litigation radar. But hold on, the same article points out that Dell is continuing its relationship with RedHat, who steadfastly rebuke Microsoft’s offer of a similar agreement. Moreover, Dell will sell RedHat products on its computers to corporate customers big enough to appear on Microsoft radar without warning that Dell wash their hands off this “unaccountability”. Is Dell so irresponsible? If not, why this “blessing”?

A lot of people have different takes on the issues. Most of which comes from open source community who did not like the patent deal one bit. Hence, its not surprising that the comments from them are negative. Sometimes, you get gems like this one from iTWire, which hit the nails on its head: Like it or not, Dell cannot afford to let its relationship with Microsoft slips.

Dell is in the hardware business, but every hardware needs software. Dell’s is in a very competitive business and Microsoft is its biggest supplier. Dell selling Linux is a small but very public blow to Microsoft. Back in the mid 90s you would had seen Microsoft yanking Dell’s license, but after the antitrust battle with DoJ this is no longer an option. This does not mean it is forced to swallow its unhappiness. May be Microsoft can let this slip if major news agencies such as the BBC did not pick up on it. Now Dell needs to patch its relationship with Microsoft, so my speculation is Microsoft PR decided the best approach is to get Dell to say something negative about Linux, and Dell selling SuSE is one approach, the patent thing another. [Update: It appears that Dell is actually reselling SUSE coupons from Microsoft, meaning it is not buying from Novell direct. This can be interpreted several ways: (1)It does not want to, but sells SuSE under pressure, or, those coupons are cheaper than getting SuSE from Novell direct. The latter is bad news for Novell, however it likes to spin it. Either way, it looks to me like Microsoft needs help disposing the 75000 coupons it got from Novell 5 months ago. 75000 coupons for the whole world does not seems a lot at all, considering the number of Linux/Microsoft mixed environment. ]

Therefore I don’t see anything much is this announcement. Its something Dell has to do to smooth feathers. Dell would sell you hardware for any operating systems you want. It does not really care what OS you use, but it does care that it runs on Dell’s hardware.


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