SOFTWARE ALCHEMIST Microsoft shook up a lot of folks Monday by announcing that it is giving away thousands of lines of code for inclusion in the Linux kernel.
But it is fairly clear that the code the Vole is contributing is not going to help Linux compete better against Windows. Instead it apparently is intended to make sure that Voleware becomes a better host for Linux.
By using the Volish drivers, Linux will be able to run in "enlightened mode" under Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualisation, which will give it optimised synthetic devices while running as a guest under Windows.
At the moment, Linux can run as a virtual machine under Windows, but without high performance levels.
Microsoft has released the drivers under the GPLv2 licence that governs the Linux kernel. This is odd as the Vole has heretofore avoided the GPL like the plague, and in the past even called such free software licences 'cancerous'. However it is clear that if the Vole wants its software included in the Linux kernel it must release the source code under the GPL.
Yet this is another mixed message from Microsoft to its customers regarding Linux. In the past, the Vole has claimed that Linux violates 235 of its patents, although it has never identified any specific patents.
Earlier this year Microsoft took the navigation systems maker TomTom to court, claiming that some of its Linux code infringed upon Volish patents, and it has also pursued other Linux users with patent claims. Those matters have been settled out of court but Microsoft hasn't promised not to sue other Linux users.
Just because Microsoft is contributing some of its code to the Linux kernel doesn't mean that it's giving up on its legal hostility to Linux. Attempting to co-opt, subvert, and roll over Linux, all of these are more likely scenarios for what the Vole is up to in making this move.
We think Microsoft hopes to hold on to its customers by owning the management and virtualization layers, even if there is some Linux running in the mix. Since it can't fairly compete with Linux, the Vole probably just wants to keep extracting money from its corporate users by virtualising Linux under a Microsoft badge.
This is classic Microsoft strategy - embrace, extend, extinguish - and it is totally self-serving of the Vole, same as always. µ
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