[conspire] Re: Sun's strategy to discredit Linux.

Christian Einfeldt einfeldt at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 2 20:57:22 PDT 2004

On Saturday 02 October 2004 20:07, Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at earthlink.net):
> > Reading Jonathan's blog above, I would have to say that he is
> > merely engaged in marketing his company's products against two
> > competitors: Red Hat for software and IBM for hardware.
> He is, but he's been shading the truth a bit too much for my
> taste. More below.

Okay, so perhaps this comes down to personal taste?  Or am I missing 
something here?  (which is entirely possible).  

> > I don't read JS as equating RH and Linux.
> http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20040721 has Schwartz
> saying there are many Linuxes but basically only one in the data
> centre (RHEL).

I'm not familiar with the data center industry.  Do you know what 
market share Red Hat has compared with other Linux distros?

> In that same entry, he made the claim that 
> numerous of his employees have echoed since then, and constitutes
> my major beef in the current campaign:
>     Red Hat's figured that out. They've consistently raised price
> and tightened licensing to be the most restrictive I've seen in
> the open source world.

For some reason, this doesn't bother me.  I see it as vague.  
"Tightened licensing"?  What does that mean?  "Most restrictive in 
the open source world?"  How many shades of blue are there?  I 
would tend to discount this kind of talk as commercial puffery.  
(Again, maybe I am missing something here).  

> The claim is convenient to Sun's campaign, but entirely untrue --
> and it is a key untruth.  (Either Schwartz is aware of this, or
> desparately needs better information on industry affairs.)

I'm not sure that Jonathan is making a statement of fact so much as 
he is making an argument based on his view of the facts, and I 
don't think that it is possible for an opinion to be true or 
untrue.  An opinion can be more or less misleading.  Am I splitting 
hairs here?  I don't know.  I guess that I would just _expect_ a 
high ranking exec to express an opinion such as the one Jonathan is 
expressing here.  

> http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20040910 is another of
> his pieces that starts talking about Linux but then shifts in
> mid-sentence to talking about Red Hat.

Yes, but he's talking about IBM and Red Hat.  Again, in each of 
these cases, it just seems that what we have here is companies 
jostling to show 1) they are the best at Linux and open source for 
their customers, and 2) not wanting to alienate the developer 
community.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on what I have seen, 
I am not worried or upset by Jonathan's comments.  I mean, look at 
what Martin Fink is saying here:


There, Fink (HP's head Linux guy) strongly criticizes IBM for 
opposing HP's efforts to sell HP hardware with Linux.  This is just 
sales talk.

> http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20040901 does the same
> thing.

Okay, now I'm really confused.  Here is what Jonathan says there:

"Red Hat is not linux, despite what they say, and despite what the 
media (and IBM's ads) seem to conflate." 

"To my friends in the media, you are confusing a social movement 
with a single company - that social movement is all about choice, 
innovation and freedom. Not dominance or dependence. In that light, 
no innovation Sun delivers, in comp models or bits, can be 

Jonathan even calls it "GNU/Linux, which is a cool little plus for 
the free software side of the greater FLOSS community.  

My point in discussing this topic with you, Rick, is that I see lots 
of people worried about Sun doing one thing or another that is 
going to be harmful to open source; but I have friends at Sun, and 
they are all pretty pumped about free software (as Richard would 

I do seem to recall that Sun separated itself from the community 
with Solaris, which I understand to be a flavor of Unix.  I know 
that I hear lots of folks who are knowledgeable about such things 
to criticize Sun as being part of the forking and decline of Unix 
when everyone was trying to claim their own proprietary version of 

I am active in the OpenOffice.org (OOo) community, and I can tell 
you that Sun is very gung-ho about OOo.  As a simple end user who 
uses OOo in his law practice everyday, Sun has earned a huge 
reservoir of good will with me for what it is doing with OOo.  And 
so I am skeptical when people criticize Sun for one thing or 
another in relation to its work in open source, because to me Sun's 
commitment to open source seems to be as strong or stronger than 
any big company that one could think of. 

In fact, if I understand your concerns correctly, your concerns stem 
from that very history.  We truly don't want to see companies start 
trying to walk off with their own "proprietary" version of Linux, 
and to the extent that you believe that Jonathan Schwartz and other 
are trying to blame each other for trying to grab fork GNU and the 
kernal, I would share your concern.  

But from everything that I can see, the current day competition to 
be the best Gnu Linux provider is quite different from the 
competition of the Unix days.  People now are competing above the 
level of GNU and the kernal.  Sure, Jonathan is trying to talk 
about Red Hat price hikes and he does use the phrase "proprietary" 
but IMHO that is not a problem.  It is just proprietary in that it 
is all about speed to market.  Harvard Biz Prof Clayton Christensen 
talks about using "proprietary" combinations of commodities to 
effect speed to market with mass customization.  Ian Murdock is 
talking about the same thing here:


And Tim O'Reilly praises Ian Murdock's Progeny company for its 
"proprietary" Dell-like mass customization of open source solutions 
by creating an integrated architecture across the customer 
interface, like Dell did:  


So to me, this whole discussion revolves around a bunch of companies 
trying to bring their open source solutions to market as quickly as 
possible with the best solutions for their customers, and they are 
competing with each other and trying to convince everyone that they 
have the best open source solutions.  

> The sales talk aspect doesn't bother me.  (That we'll always have
> with us.) Schwartz's acknowledged RH = Linux dodge is only
> moderately insulting of our intelligence, and no worse than that.
>  It's the bogus claim about RHEL's contents being "proprietary"
> that bothers me -- because that's flat-out wrong, and Schwartz
> either already knows that or ought to.

IMHO, I think that you and Jonathan are defining proprietary in 
different ways.  You might be more comfortable with what Jonathan 
is saying if you substitute the phrase "integrated architecture" 
wherever you see him say "proprietary".   For example, you seem to 
be defining "proprietary" this way:

> I've done fairly careful analysis of the copyright, trademark,
> and contractual encumbrances in RHEL.  Even though IANAL, to the
> best of my ability to tell, _all_ of the software packages in
> RHEL are open source or at least freely redistributable.  (Two
> non-software packages containing image files are under some
> interlinked copyright and trademark restrictions.)

But I see Jonathan and Ian Murdock as defining "proprietary" more in 
the same way that Tim O'Reilly talks about Google or Amazon 
delivering open source software in his famous "paradigm shift" 
article above.  

I also think that Jonathan is saying that he feels that Red Hat's 
pricing is too high, and hey, looky here, Sun can offer competitive 
products and services, so don't think that you just have to stick 
with Red Hat in the data center.  

So that's why I am not bothered by the use of the word proprietary.  
Sun is a great open source partner.  So is IBM.  So is Progeny.  So 
is HP.  But each in their own way, and each will claim to be the 
best open source provider.  And each will try to elbow their way to 
the front.  None of this bothers me.  I think that simple end users 
like me will benefit in the end, because these companies are going 
to be offering more cool open source solutions at competitive 

Christian Einfeldt

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