Shuttleworth denies Ubuntu-Microsoft deal

A Microsoft licensing deal isn't needed by Ubuntu's user community, he says

Canonical chief executive Mark Shuttleworth has made it clear that Ubuntu isn't interested in forming a deal with Microsoft along the lines of those recently reached by Linspire, Xandros and Novell.

"We have declined to discuss any agreement with Microsoft under the threat of unspecified patent infringements," Shuttleworth said in a blog post on Saturday.

His remarks follow speculation in the press that, following Linspire's agreement with Microsoft last week, Linspire partner Ubuntu might follow suit.

As part of the agreement between Linspire and Microsoft, the companies have agreed to cooperate in several areas. Linspire will work with Novell and Microsoft to develop open-source "translators" that allow Open Office and Microsoft Office users to share documents more easily. The company has also licensed Microsoft's RT audio codec to make its Pidgin IM client interoperable with Windows Live Messenger and other Microsoft products.

As part of the deal, Linspire also pledged to add support for Windows Media 10 in future releases of its Linux OS distribution. The company also agreed to make Windows Live Search the default search engine in Linspire 5.0.

However, as with recent Microsoft agreements with Novell and Xandros, another aspect of the deal has been raising hackles in the open source community -- the purchase by Linspire of protection from patent lawsuits. Microsoft says Linux infringes a number of its patents, and that Linux companies should sign up to patent licensing deals.

The structure of the Linspire, Xandros and Novell deals, has allowed the open source companies to argue that they are merely interoperability agreements, and to deny that they are agreeing to Microsoft's patent claims. Meanwhile, Microsoft has publicized the agreements as proof of its patents' hold over Linux and other open source software.

Shuttleworth said he has no problem with the interoperability side of Linspire-style agreements.

But he said the real purpose of the recent deals has been to increase Microsoft's influence.

"I don't believe that the intent of the current round of agreements is supportive of free software, and in fact I don't think it's particularly in Microsoft's interests to pursue this agenda either," Shuttleworth wrote.

He said Microsoft's intellectual property arguments are not valid, and that in any case an agreement offering protection from them would be no real barrier to litigation.

"All the deals announced so far strike me as 'trinkets in exchange for air kisses'. Mua mua. No thanks," he wrote.

He didn't rule out collaboration with Microsoft further down the line, if it would bring any real value to open source software.

"I have no objections to working with Microsoft in ways that further the cause of free software, and I don't rule out any collaboration with them, in the event that they adopt a position of constructive engagement with the free software community," he wrote. "It's not useful to characterize any company as 'intrinsically evil for all time.'"

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