Linux Foundation: We'd love to work with Microsoft

In an interview, Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, talks about desire to interoperate and discusses the desktop outlook for Linux

InfoWorld: That's why you think Microsoft did that announcement a few weeks ago where they opened up the documentation?

Zemlin: I think they did it to placate regulators, and I think they did it because half the company realizes that the world is going toward that model and that they need to do that to complete.

InfoWorld: Wouldn't the emergence of Linux kind of say that maybe Microsoft never really was a monopoly, that there was always room for somebody else to compete in there and that's what Linux is now doing?

Zemlin: It obviously was a desktop monopoly for a period of time. It was never a pure monopoly on the server.

InfoWorld: Apparently, Microsoft is going to get together with the Eclipse Foundation next week. Are there any accommodations between or collaborations between Microsoft and the Linux Foundation?

Zemlin: Not at this time, but we'd love to do it.

InfoWorld: What would you like to see?

Zemlin: We'd like to have a place where developers can come and work on making Linux more effectively interoperate with Microsoft products. And we'd like to do that in the open-source way that's not tied to any specific marketing agreement, that's not tied to any specific contract, that is an open process that can be participated in by anyone in the community.

InfoWorld: What's the interoperability problem now?

Zemlin: I mean I think there's always room for improvement around areas like the Samba Project, which is file-sharing; networking around virtual machines, and the management of those across different platforms.

InfoWorld: Have you approached Microsoft about any of this?

Zemlin: No, not formally. I mean I think that they know that the offer is out there.

InfoWorld: At the MIX08 show last week, one of the topics was the Moonlight, which is about Microsoft's accommodating Linux with the Novell-built Moonlight version of the Silverlight client. Don't you think that Microsoft is recognizing and accommodating Linux at least to that small degree?

Zemlin: I think they're trying to be competitive, because certainly if you look at Adobe's AIR platform and the development tools, they are for sure on Linux. Obviously, Microsoft recognizes that these type of cross-platform new media development tools and runtime environments are critical.

InfoWorld: How far can the free software movement go?

Zemlin: The world is moving toward a place where mass collaboration is sort of essential to be competitive. Single companies can't think of every good idea. [With] Linux, for example, the work that's done in enabling real-time support in the Linux kernel for mission-critical financial systems on Wall Street, that same technology goes into benefit the mobile world. Power management technology for an extended battery life in Linux in the mobile [space] goes into the server world, reducing the cost of the energy footprint of the data center. So this stuff is extremely sophisticated, and when you talk about free software and how far "free" can go, I think that misses part of the conversation of how far this mass collaboration can go, which I think is the more important precedent to the second part, which is -- how do you monetize it. Right? And so what's clear to me is that Linux, as an example, and other similar -- whether it's Wikipedia or Facebook or Google or any of the other typical examples of incredible work that's done in this mass collaboration model -- are easily monetized. Red Hat has proven that certainly in the open-source world, that they can offer service and support and training.

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