Mark Shuttleworth gets quote mined

As I wrote on the Ubuntu Sounder ML, I note that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is predicting that Ubuntu will be the next MS ‘partner’. He cites as evidence for this:

(1) an out of context quote “I’d love to work with Microsoft…” from an interview [the text is an “an edited extract”; you can get the full audio file (OGG format; perfect for Linux :) here] in which Shuttleworth said:


Microsoft is asking people to pay them for patents, but they won’t say which ones. If a guy walks into a shop and says: “It’s an unsafe neighbourhood, why don’t you pay me 20 bucks and I’ll make sure you’re okay,” that’s illegal. It’s racketeering. What Microsoft is doing with intellectual property is exactly the same. It’s a great company and I have great admiration for it, but this was not a well considered position.

[Question asked: So you wouldn’t do a deal?]

No, absolutely not. But the time will come when the folks at Microsoft who have a clear vision for the company as a participant in this community, rather than as a hostile antagonist, will win. At that point I’d love to work with Microsoft. It’s not an evil empire. It’s just a company that is efficiently grounded in the 1980s. New leadership and new thinking might make it a more effective partner for us.

More importantly, people need to understand that the risk of a patent suit associated with Linux, which is a real risk, is far greater from someone other than Microsoft. Signing a deal with Microsoft doesn’t solve the patent problem at all. It doesn’t give you patent immunity. It gives you immunity from a suit from Microsoft and I really don’t think that’s the threat. Microsoft won’t win a patent war, so I don’t think they’ll start one.

(emphasis added to show location of the quote excerpt)

In fact, it was so out of context and contrary to the text of the article that I would call it a “mined quote” (for shame Mr. Vaughan-Nichols! When directly asked “So you wouldn’t do a [patent] deal [with Microsoft]?” he said “No, absolutely not.” ):<

Earlier in the article he had made a big point about how the CEO of Linspire, Kevin Carmony, had changed his tune about patent deals with MS between when Novell and Xandros made theirs. But when has Mr. Shuttleworth been inconsistent with regard to either patents or proprietary software in Ubuntu?

I’m in favour of patents in general, but not software or business method patents.

we have joined FFII and other organisations that are fighting software patents

[after I posted this article, I was alerted to something which further supports it: “Canonical Signs License Agreement With Open Invention Network” which states in part:

“Open Invention Network (OIN), the company formed to spur innovation and protect the Linux System, announced today that Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, has become an OIN licensee, providing Ubuntu users and developers IP protection. Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. This enables companies like Canonical to continue to make significant corporate and capital expenditure investments in Linux – helping to fuel economic growth.”

With that, Ubuntu is on the opposite side of the patent cold-war from MS, Novell, Xandros and Linspire :]

“Ubuntu has included firmware, and used proprietary drivers since its inception. That’s always been a slightly uncomfortable proposition, as Mako observed, but it’s been true since the Warty Warthog. […] I hear you when you say “users want proprietary codecs”. That’s why we make sure these items ARE available, at the user’s option, as packages on the network repositories. That allows users who need that functionality, or who choose that functionality over free alternatives, to exercise that choice freely. We don’t make that choice for them, though of course there is huge demand from real users for that. And we will stay firm in that regard. Ubuntu does not, and will never, include proprietary applications.”

I have serious concerns about the Novell-Microsoft deal – and so do other people who make huge contributions to the body of free software. Novell and SuSE are of course deeply linked, and so the actions of one do have consequences for the other. I would expect the same sort of consequences in Ubuntu if Canonical made poor decision.”

We have to work together to keep free software freely available. It will be a failure if the world moves from paying for shrink-wrapped Windows to paying for shrink-wrapped Linux.”

(2) Dell is now shipping Ubuntu systems… which Vaughan-Nichols follows with the unsupported assertion: “I’m sure those desktop users would also like the goodies that Microsoft and Linspire will be delivering in Linspire 6 — namely: access to Microsoft proprietary multimedia codecs; VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) over Microsoft IM (instant messaging) compatible clients; and Microsoft fonts.”

Personally, if I wanted those things, I’d still be using Windows :P
And given the choice, I’d rather get my proprietary software from Apple ;P

And its not like I can’t do VOIP with Ubuntu… And its not like there aren’t good font replacements for the M$ ones (e.g. the Liberation ones Red Hat released)

And one of the things Vaughan-Nichols neglected to mention was that “Linspire will select the Live Search service of Windows Live as the Linspire 5.0 default Web search engine, allowing Microsoft to bring Live Search to a broader set of users and providing leading search capabilities to Linspire customers.”

Yuck! I know I don’t want *that* ^_-

(3) He also mentions the Linspire-Ubuntu announcement from a while back, adding “Sounds to me like it would as easy as falling off a log for Canonical to add some Microsoft features of its own to Ubuntu Linux distribution.”

Um, no; “Ubuntu CDs contain only free software applications” (as per ubuntu.com :) so no proprietary M$ fonts, codecs, etc.

In fact, Shuttleworth stated that Wine wouldn’t be installed by default on the Ubuntu Dells because “While Linux is an alternative to Windows, it is not cheap Windows. Linux has its own strengths, and users should want it because of those strengths and not because it’s a cheap copy of Windows”

and “My hope is not just that we can achieve parity with the proprietary world, but that we can leapfrog it

There are however still questions about the Linspire announcement that I think Mr. Shuttleworth needs to address though.

The announcement stated that “Canonical plans to integrate aspects of the open source CNR technology into Ubuntu’s software management system starting with Ubuntu’s Feisty +1 release expected in October 2007.” Will that be on by default or just tucked away in universe/multiverse/commercial somewhere?

Also, Sam Varghese comments: “Will Shuttleworth continue to collaborate with a company which has now caved in to a protection racket? Or will he do stick to the principle behind the whole FOSS movement and walk away from the deal? We’re watching and waiting, Mark.”

Based on Linspire’s site it sounds like the bulk of what Linspire made a deal for won’t be in Ubuntu, since it won’t be in Freespire:


Will this new option be available in Freespire?

No, for the most part, this new agreement doesn’t affect Freespire, only Linspire. Like the DVD player and other software options Linspire offers, Linspire must pay a per-unit fee when distributing this new option. Since Freespire is a free distribution, we are not able to include it with Freespire. If Freespire users want these new features (TrueType Fonts, Windows Media 10, etc.), they always have the option of moving to Linspire. It should be pointed out, however, that this agreement does include some things, that will be included with Freespire, such as better interoperability with OpenOffice and Microsoft Office.

BTW, “better interoperability with OpenOffice and Microsoft Office” is a euphemism for support for M$ Office 2007’s format, their pseudo-open alternative to the really-open ODF (used in OpenOffice.org, Koffice and Gnome Office (Abiword and Gnumeric)).

[I’ve since commented on the ITWire site: “I don’t think [Shuttleworth] will walk away from the deal… Though did we ever find out the full details or are those still being sorted out? Will CNR be in main? universe? multiverse? commercial? Will access to it be enabled by default in “Add/Remove Applications”? You might want to interview him about it (I would love to read that! :)”]

Vaughan-Nichols concludes:

“if you see some news about Ubuntu partnering up with Microsoft sometime soon, well, just remember that you read it here first.”

I call BS on his article; Vaughan-Nichols was also the one predicting last year that Freespire would be one of the top distros this year (see my prior entry on this ;) so take his predictions with a grain of salt… (If I had to pick a distro that might be next I would have to say Mandriva; note that M$ has been ‘partnering’ with pay distros and as I recall, Mandriva has had financial issues and so would be more vulnerable to the lure of Microsoft’s money…) [edit: see update 3]

Sadly though, Vaughan-Nichols’ wild speculation is going to make the rounds, so Mr. Shuttleworth should probably blog about this (and also clarify what’s up with Linspire’s CNR)…

Update: Mark Shuttleworth flatly denies Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ prediction of an Ubuntu-Microsoft patent deal in his blog here. Also, as was noticed by another blogger (and then on Slashdot), Shuttleworth also made almost identical statements in the comments to one of his previous posts.

Update 2: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has a reply up, “No Microsoft patent deal for Ubuntu“. I’ve copied some of his new text below in italics followed by my comments:

Unfortunately, no one seems to have actually read my column. I never said that Ubuntu might be making a patent deal with Microsoft.

The problem is that it was strongly implied. All the M$ deals thus far have involved a patent aspect. The title of the piece was “Microsoft’s next Linux partner is…?” It quotes the Linspire CEO talking about M$ needing “to have one willing partner to set a price and precedence on that IP.” And patents are the bogeyman that is freaking people out; if the deal with Novell was just about licensing some codecs, fonts and network protocols, the FSF wouldn’t have needed to reword the GPLv3 draft, ne?

I said, it “would as easy as falling off a log for Canonical to add some Microsoft features of its own to Ubuntu Linux distribution.” I was talking about the features like those added by Linspire in its deal. These included: VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) compatibility over Microsoft IM (instant message) compatible clients; Microsoft audio and video codec support; and TrueType fonts. I’ll also speculate that, like the Novell, Xandros, and Linspire deals, a Ubuntu deal might also include work on technical interoperability between Linux and Windows.

And as I mentioned, it would NOT be “as easy as falling off a log” (see point #2 from my post above and the quote from Shuttleworth about “I hear you when you say “users want proprietary codecs”.”). These things, even if M$ isn’t claiming patents over aspects of them, are proprietary. Ubuntu only includes LIBRE software apps and codecs as part of a plain install. Either Ubuntu would literally sell out (and that would be the end of Ubuntu Linux) [edit: I suppose some of this (e.g. the fonts and codecs) could be put into Canonical’s commercial repositories if there was a ‘deal’ (which would be different from all these other deals, since they’re being integrated into the installed OS rather than being a separate download from what I understand), but I still don’t see this happening; some things, e.g. the fonts seem to be basically the same as what you can legally get from the msttcorefonts package right now… also, what would Canonical be expected to pay or otherwise agree to (if not a patent deal?) for these? AFAIK, everything in commercial is there because it can’t be included in multiverse due to redistribution limitations, not because they’re paying a licensing fee. I still direct your attention to Shuttleworth’s quote about “Linux has its own strengths, and users should want it because of those strengths and not because it’s a cheap copy of Windows” The goal is to move users away from proprietary things, not towards them, which brings me back to the other possibility…] or Microsoft would have to put them under a license like the GPL. And to borrow Shuttleworth’s quote, that would take “New leadership and new thinking” at Microsoft; at a minimum Gates and Ballmer need to go first for that to happen.

In short, I still think we can expect to see a Microsoft/Ubuntu deal sometime this year.

Really. In the next six-and-a-half months or so. Do you expect Ballmer and Gates to pass away in a tragic chair-mishap very soon, followed immediately by the promotion of mini to CEO? ;) If not, don’t bet on it.

Update 3:  I note, via an entry on the Boycott Novell website, that Mandriva’s CEO has written:

Novell, Xandros and Linspire have signed well publicized agreements with Microsoft.

Rumors on the Web have hinted that we might be next on the list. So we would like to clarify our position.

At Mandriva, we believe working in heterogeneous environments is essential to our customers. So, interoperability between the Windows and Linux world is important and must be dealt with, and anything that helps this interoperability is a good thing.

We also believe the best way to deal with interoperability is open standards, such as ODF which we support strongly and we are ready to cooperate with everyone on these topics.

As far as IP is concerned, we are, to say the least, not great fans of software patents and of the current patent system, which we consider as counter productive for the industry as a whole.

We also believe what we see, and up to now, there has been absolutely no hard evidence from any of the FUD propagators that Linux and open source applications are in breach of any patents. So we think that, as in any democracy, people are innocent unless proven guilty and we can continue working in good faith.

So we don’t believe it is necessary for us to get protection from Microsoft to do our job or to pay protection money to anyone.

We plan to keep developing and distributing innovative and exciting products and making them available to the largest number in the true spirit of open source.

I would just like to say that I am very happy that my guess about Mandriva was wrong! :-)

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9 Responses to “Mark Shuttleworth gets quote mined”

  1. Mark Shuttleworth » Blog Archive » No negotiations with Microsoft in progress Says:

    […] recently with Linspire, Xandros, Novell etc. Unfortunately, some speculation in the media (thoroughly and elegantly debunked in the blogosphere but not before the damage was done) posited that “Ubuntu might be […]

  2. Não há negociações em progresso com a Microsoft « asf@web Says:

    […] recentemente pela Linspire, Xnadros, Novell etc. Infelizmente, algumas especulações na mídia (apesar de elegantemente desmentidas na blogosfera, não sem antes antes causar um certo prejuízo) posicionam que o “Ubuntu deve […]

  3. Shuttleworth responds to Microsoft/Ubuntu rumors « A Conservative Techie Says:

    […] news is the Ubuntu community has debunked the rumors and stories floating around the blogsphere. This post is perhaps one of the best, in fact it is the one Mark quotes in his blog entry responding to the […]

  4. Top Posts « WordPress.com Says:

    […] Mark Shuttleworth gets quote mined As I wrote on the Ubuntu Sounder ML, I note that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is predicting that Ubuntu will be the next […] […]

  5. liquidat Says:

    One thing about the Open Innovation Network:
    Novell is member of the OIN, and it founded it. It even contributed some very (said to be) valuable patents.

    But I have to admit that I still haven’t figured out how the OIN fits together with the MS-Novell deal…

  6. No negotiations with Microsoft in progress Says:

    […] recently with Linspire, Xandros, Novell etc. Unfortunately, some speculation in the media (thoroughly and elegantly debunked in the blogosphere but not before the damage was done) posited that “Ubuntu might be […]

  7. Ubuntu en acuerdos con Microsoft? « Mundo Tuxiano Says:

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  9. No negotiations with Microsoft in progress « MIS HISTORIAS Says:

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