Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Microsoft leaks: the Halloween documents

October 31 is coming up soon, so now is a good time to remind everyone of the Halloween Documents, hosted by Eric S. Raymond.

If you don't know what this refers to, you may want to read the Wikipedia entry on the Microsoft Halloween documents leaks. Yes. Microsoft has acknowledged the authenticity of these documents. Furthermore, they have surfaced as an exhibit in the Comes v Microsoft antitrust litigation. Bill Gates himself had them distributed internally.

I think the Halloween documents are substantive proof that Microsoft really views Linux as a threat, and will go to great lengths to protect its monopoly standing.

Not all the Halloween documents listed on Eric's site are leaked memos. Some are simply Eric's commentary. Interested in reading just the leaked Microsoft documents? Here's a summary:

Document 1
An internal report written by Vinod Valloppillil, who was a Program Manager at Microsoft at the time. It looks at Free / Open Source software, including its strengths and weaknesses, and the possible impact to Microsoft's products and services. Importantly, Valloppillil acknowledges that Free / Open Source software "is long-term credible" and "FUD tactics can not be used to combat it." Instead, the document proposes fighting Free / Open Source software by "extending these [commonly-used] protocols and developing new protocols" and "de-commoditize protocols & applications." Thus, the consumer is locked-in to Microsoft's solutions.

Document 2
Another report by Vinod Valloppillil, with Josh Cohen. This gives an overview of the Linux system.

Document 3
Aurelia van den Berg, the Press and Public Relations manager of Microsoft Netherlands does a standard job of explaining away documents 1 & 2, saying that while real, they are not official - intended as internal case studies. Laugh with me at the last line: "Unless Linux violates IP rights, it will fail to deliver innovation over the long run." Does Microsoft mean to say that you can only innovate if you stomp on the rights of others?

Document 7
Presentation from a Microsoft internal Linux Strategic Review, held at the Microsoft offices in Berlin, Septemter 2002. Interestingly, it admits that anti-Linux FUD doesn't work ("Messages that criticize OSS, Linux, & the GPL are NOT effective.")

Document 8
Leaked memo by Orlando Ayala, Group Vice President of Worldwide Sales, about how to deal with competition from Linux in government. Mentions Linux and StarOffice (StarOffice is the "commercial" fork of OpenOffice.)

Document 10
An e-mail from consultant Mike Anderer to SCO's Chris Sontag, referring to Microsoft channeling $86M (possibly more) to SCO through Baystar, to assist in SCO's anti-Linux court cases.

3 comments:

  1. Just a nit:

    (StarOffice is the "commercial" fork of OpenOffice.)

    This is not 100% fair to phrase it that way because it makes it sound like OO.org is the primary provider. In some sense this is true, but StarOffice was created back in the 80s by StarDivision. In 1999 Sun bought StarOffice, and then in 2000 released the code under the LGPL. So at least at the start, saying "OpenOffice is the open source fork of StarOffice" would have been much more accurate.

    I'm not sure how the balance of contributions go now though; whether more flows from Sun and StarOffice to OpenOffice or the other way around.

    ReplyDelete
  2. True, and it's a small point that I didn't want to spend a lot of time explaining. As you mentioned, the original product was "StarOffice". This was later purchased by Sun, who then released it under an open source license as "StarOffice.org". These days, development happens in the open-sourced OpenOffice.org branch. Sun occasionally forks a stable release of OO.o, does testing, adds code to stabilize any bugs, and puts in "StarOffice" branding before making the release. StarOffice releases always lag behind OpenOffice.org features.

    So I summarized all that with "StarOffice is the 'commercial' fork of OpenOffice."

    Yeah, that was definitely a "nit".

    ReplyDelete
  3. I had completed forgotten about the Halloween docs. Thanks for posting them!

    ReplyDelete

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