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The Microsoft-Linux Story As Told in the Comes Exhibits - Updated
Thursday, January 14 2010 @ 11:27 PM EST

As we are working on the data in the Comes v. Microsoft exhibits, describing the contents or transcribing each so as to make them keyword searchable, we are coming across some interesting materials regarding Microsoft's view of Linux. As far back as 1999, Bill Gates was asking his executives if there was a way to make things harder for Linux. For example, here's Comes Exhibit 3020:
From: Bill Gates
Sent: Sunday, January 24, 1999 8:41 AM
To: Jeff Westorinon; Ben Fathi
Cc: Carl Stork; Nathan Myhrvold; Eric Rudder
Subject: ACPI extensions

One thing I find myself wondering about is whether we shouldn't try and make the "ACPI" extensions somehow Windows specific.

It seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work.

Maybe there is no way to avoid this problem but it does bother me.

Maybe we could define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open.

Or maybe we could patent something related to this.

1999. He wanted to patent something so as to hobble Linux and keep it from "working great".

Wait until you read about the EDGI program to keep folks in governments and educational institutions from switching to Linux, and then there is another exhibit that shows exactly how Microsoft tried to worm its way into OLPC and who helped it.

We're still deep into the transcribing, so I won't write much about the exhibits here, but take a look at this page, the Exhibits by Numbers page 4 (we had to divide it into 4 pages, because it became too long), and look for keyword EDGI and also keyword Linux and "Don't lose to Linux" or "never lose to Linux". It'll knock your socks off, what Microsoft is willing to do to beat Linux.

And the interesting part is to see how Microsoft viewed Linux just before SCO showed up on the scene. Look for exhibits 9644, 9683, 9685, 9677, 9679, 9687, and 9695, all PDFs. The last one is 2002, when SCO was just getting in gear, and Kevin Johnson writes, "Linux is good for business, you know." The impression I formed from these exhibits is that Microsoft was terrified of what one email called the "Linux infestation".

On that page, you'll find text describing the contents or a transcript of each.

And here is the exhibit that tells the OLPC story, what really happened, and no, it was not Nicholas Negroponte selling out. It's a much more nuanced story, in Exhibit 9643 [PDF]. The blurb from that same page, but I encourage you to read the original in full -- this is just to whet your appetite:

From: Martin Taylor
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2005 8:45
To: Orlando Ayala
Subject: RE: Recap of our meeting today with Rodrigo and Marcelo

Yikes. We should see how we can "target" the funds for specific research. There is a way to position this around MSFT willing to possibly give MORE if they do research on stuff that is mutually interesting. it could make sense. I think that is how Samsung structures there deal with Media Labs.

-- MT


From: Orlando Ayala
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2005 3:59 PM
To: Martin Taylor
Subject: FW: Recap of our meeting today with Rodrigo and Marcelo

gong backwards!


From: Craig Mundie
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2005 3:57 PM
To: Orlando Ayala; Will Poole; et al
Cc: Craig Fiebig
Subject: RE: Recap of our meeting today with Rodrigo and Marcelo

Targeted only at Media Lab. They are increasing investments at MIT overall I think (although our $25M five year deal on eCampus is also coming to an end this year I think). With Media Lab, they want to fund specific research but not put the money into a the big general fund...

[Ed: Craig Mundie et al discuss level of funding for Media Lab and MIT, wanting to reduce but not yet tell them. Looking for "some other organization, either my TCI work, or the product group, that wanted to fund the Media Lab" as opposed to MSR "and that is a start-from-scratch analysis". Will Poole suggests "I think we should name our new open source license and romance its creation. 'Education Open Source' or something like that. And offer that commercial terms can be established under such an agreement, thus enabling the best of open source and commercial software environments".]


From: Craig Mundie
Sent: Sunday, October 16, 2005 9:47 PM
To: Tom Phillips; Will Poole et al
Cc: Orlando Ayala; Craig Fiebig
Subject: RE: Recap of our meeting today with Rodrigo and Marcelo

Remember that a key part of our strategy is to create a situation where even if Nick rejects us for philosophical reasons there is a long and visible history of our attempts to work with them and then we have to ask to get a license for the "open source hardware" and we will make our own offering on the commercial side.

[Ed: The meeting on Oct. 16 was in Miami to discuss "the work with the OLPCA." Microsoft sought "additional due diligence". "At the conclusion of the meeting, it was again clear that the central issue boils down to the OSS philosophy of Nick. In our meetings with Hector, he insisted that AMD has the capability to shift Nick into a more realistic state on the Open Source philosophy."

Yup. "Enabling the best of open source and commercial software environments..." And they are still at that goal.

We'd love to have your help with this project, if you'd like to download an exhibit and just briefly and accurately describe its contents or transcribe it fully. Just put your work in your plain text comment here. There are around 3,000 documents, and we're more than half done, so if you want to share in the project, it's now or never. And with that, I'm back to work.

Update: There is another threat from Bill Gates to use patents against a competitor, in #4023 [PDF], regarding StarOffice back in 1999: "At some point we will have to consider the patents they violate." I wonder if this exhibit means that they waited too long to go after

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