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Major PC Vendors Push For Open Source Drivers 232

Posted by kdawson
from the sudden-outbreak dept.
hweimer writes "Remember the heat the Linux Foundation took for allegedly not giving enough attention to Desktop Linux? The latest events at the Foundation's annual summit paint a different picture. Industry heavyweights like Dell, HP, and Lenovo 'announced on stage that they will now include wording in their hardware procurement processes to "strongly encourage" the delivery of open source drivers.' The move specifically targets desktop and mobile products."
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Major PC Vendors Push For Open Source Drivers

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  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Uncle Focker (1277658) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:22PM (#23245222)
    What will these same vendors do if these strong encouragements just get ignored? Will they actually apply some economic pressure as some force for these hardware vendors to relent? Otherwise this just seems like nothing but sword rattling. I applaud the effort though and hope it has some effect.
  • A difference... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MLCT (1148749) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:31PM (#23245318)
    There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much - the big hardware providers hold too much sway for Dell et al. to cancel multimillion (if not billion) dollar contracts because they won't provide the source code for a couple of piddly little drivers.

    A step in the right direction if they genuinely mean it, but if it is just disingenuous chatter to "keep the OSS camp happy" then it is just PR.
  • by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:39PM (#23245388)
    This is definitely a step forward for the F/OSS community. Not only is most hardware supported already under Linux (even "obsolete" stuff and processor architectures that are no longer produced), but now the major box builders are taking steps to make sure your hardware will be recognized. Sure, this doesn't necessarily mean that drivers will be available for all products, but it does essentially mean that these large companies are standing with the F/OSS community (especially Linux, as this is the best known piece of F/OSS software in non-technical circles). This statement by the companies serves to help the recognition of Linux as a major software platform, which is good no matter what F/OSS software you use and for what purpose you use it.
  • Vendor's Real Intent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:52PM (#23245536)
    Did anyone notice ballmer say no more xp because the customers do not want.

    Then Dell stood up and said I want. balllmer conceded and recognized his master.

    No Linux or other desktop OS means MS could have said no, you do not want; and so dell would have not wanted, for there was nothing.

    Vendors using Linux means they may say I DO NOT WANT to microsoft in the future and microsoft would EPIC FAIL. bill has aids to cure in africa, no time for MS
  • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:10PM (#23245734) Homepage Journal
    What will make a difference is that the managers who make decision in data centers are more likely to regard Linux as supported by the hardware vendors, even though nothing has really changed. This will lead to Dell, and the others calling for more open source drivers, being in a position to make more sales. Now, as soon as that starts happening, as soon as serious money starts changing hands, drivers will be written for Linux. Not necessarily open source, in fact probably not open source, but drivers nonetheless. Hardware vendors are like sharks and lawyers - they can smell blood from incredible distances.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by javilon (99157) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:11PM (#23245746) Homepage
    This doesn't look some random words from a random executive. It looks more like they have found the right time to dump an uncomfortable business partner (Microsoft) when it is weakest. It is in the best interest of the big hardware manufacturers not to be controlled by the 300 pounds gorilla. If they get Linux desktops rolling, they will be able to get a bigger margin on sales and/or bigger market share just by dropping the M$ tax. And they will be more in control.

    Now, if that is their goal, they'll find ways to get their providers to help.
  • Re:A difference... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WebCowboy (196209) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:28PM (#23245924)
    There is a difference between "strongly encouraged" and "required". Until it is required then it is not going to change much

    When a Dell or a Walmart "strongly encourage" that a supplier does something it is akin to the mafia "strongly encouraging" that the local Italian eatery "purchase its security services". Suppliers who ignore such customers' "encouragement" tend to disappear.

    The only way a supplier can ignore such encouragement and survive is if they are significantly larger than the customer and can absorb the loss of the customer. Microsoft is probably the only such supplier in the industry at the moment...and look at what has happened to them: Vista sales plod along, XP will not die and MSFT has had to bend over and take it from their big OEM customers who insist on (big shock here) offering end users what they ask for (XP installed in machines after the product's end-of-life).

    This is beyond warm-and-fuzzy feel-good stuff, and bigger than just Linux. Computer vendors want open drivers because they've been burned in the past with closed drivers. I think Dell, HP, Lenovo really hate having to sell a product that is full of software over which they have no control. If AMD or NVidia or Intel or Broadcomm ...or whoever...supply them with crappy driver guess who gets to be on the front line supporting the crap? It isn't the aforementioned suppliers, it is the PC vendor. The end user bought from the PC vendor, and ultimately they call the PC vendor's support.

    In most other industries, having such lack of transparency from suppliers would be unheard of. I think system builders are starting to realise how outrageous it is that suppliers have the upper hand in controlling the design and flow of information. They will insist in having a certain level of knowledge on how the supplied subsystems work so they can build a product that competes at a quality level competitive with Apple.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @09:10PM (#23246874)

    I always wondered why device drivers are not open source. As they make their money on the hardware they're not losing anything by giving the driver piece to the open source community to enhance.

    Reasons include: they don't like providing anything they do for free because a competitor might use it, they don't want to expose their embarrassingly poorly written code, they're afraid their poorly written code will expose their security flaws, they don't want consumers to know about the hacks they use to work around hardware flaws or which compromise quality for speed.

    Yet if they provide the code, the open source community will fix it and consumers will have nothing to complain about.
  • Re:So... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @11:44PM (#23248006)
    They will play one against the other, but ultimately every clause in the supply chain is up for sale. I know this first hand since I deal with it daily.

    Since this has not become a major internally pushed objective, I do not yet believe that it's serious.

    Why do I think it should be important? Well, if you look at my daily activities as a hardware designer, I spent more time chasing OS bugs (as opposed to board or chipset) than I do anything else. Worse, when I have pinpointed and proven beyond all doubt that it is an OS bug, the question arises "should we fix it". The algorithm is "If our competitors will also experience it, then no, we do not want to pay MS to subsidize our competitors". It costs very real money to get MS to even look at a bug, much less fix it. Often when they do, they merely offer a driver patch (even if the bug is not with the driver). If they don't fix it completely, it's more money to go back and try again. They basically bill by the hour...why do they care?

    In the end, it's pushed on to you, the consumer, to deal with inconsistent behavior that you may or may not ever notice (but with millions and millions of users, people WILL notice). It's a running joke amongst us HW guys that we can have any given linux issue identified and patched before we even finish writing the premier support case for MS, much less get the first round of emails or meetings started.

    Meanwhile Apple kicks our ass by releasing an OS without these idiotic (but minor, low severity, low risk) defects, or at least fixing them when they occur. People think the problem is with PC hardware...usually not so true... it's mostly around the years and years of kludges and half-assed design work that we've had to deal with.

    Linux can fix that, if only we could get rid of the monkey on our back, or at least tame it.

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