What’s behind Microsoft recent deals with commercial Linux vendors

August 16, 2007

Microsoft latest deals (enveloped as “collaboration agreements”) with some commercial GNU/Linux distributions pushed me to wonder what is the real deal/catch for Microsoft ?

Well, it’s not an easy thing to guess but from closely following the news of such deals I come to these completely speculative ideas. [Update: now they became true and valid.]

Microsoft pays more money than they get from these commercial GNU/Linux vendors in order to

1) Allow these commercial GNU/Linux vendors to buy open source startups. (i.e Xandros acquired scalix) [Update: July 1st, 2008, Xandros acquired Linspire too]

2) Then Microsoft opens their proprietary protocols exclusively to these vendors and thus given them advantage over non-commercial GNU/Linux Distributions. (i.e Microsoft offers specifications and documentations to Xandros about MS Exchange protocols)

3) By doing this, Microsoft preserve its dominance since these commercial GNU/Linux distributions would work efficiently with Microsoft proprietary protocols. This will be beneficial to Microsoft in two ways: 1) Slow down full platform migrations. 2) This gives more time to Microsoft to formulate more effective strategies to deal with this open source trend/threat. [Update: Feb. 21, 2008, Microsoft's Strategic Changes in Technology and Business Practices to Expand Interoperability announcement ]

4) These deals “may” work in Microsoft advantage in case of later legal actions probably against competing free (Debian, Ubuntu) and/or commercial (Red Hat) GNU/Linux distributions.

However, I don’t perceive any imminent threat from Microsoft as it still trying to figure out what are the driving motives for individuals & SMBs to consider GNU/Linux.

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