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Microsoft Sells Linux To Wal-Mart 245

Several readers wrote in to let us know that Wal-Mart is planning to buy SUSE Linux vouchers from Microsoft in the course of building out its infrastructure. These are the support vouchers that Microsoft must distribute to hold up its end of the bargain with Novell. Wal-Mart has been a customer of Red Hat Linux. CBR Online notes that the deal is not entirely unexpected because Microsoft's COO, Kevin Turner, is the former CIO of Wal-Mart.
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Microsoft Sells Linux To Wal-Mart

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  • by inode_buddha ( 576844 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:59PM (#17730042) Journal
    Maybe is this the reason Novell and MS wanted that deal of theirs so much?
  • Ooooh (Score:5, Funny)

    by MattyCobb ( 695086 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:59PM (#17730048)
    So they are saying Linux is the Walmart Windows are they? FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT
  • MS Support (Score:5, Funny)

    by eviloverlordx ( 99809 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:00PM (#17730066)
    The first thing that popped into my mind upon hearing this was "when they call MS Support, they'll get the Blue Automated Message of Death". Then I realized that the fastest way to get users to dump Linux would be to have them sent to MS' real tech support.
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:02PM (#17730084) Journal

    And then, so Lucy says to Charlie Brown, "Come on Charlie Brown, I promise not to pull the ball back this time when you kick it!"

    Does anyone imagine in any way or any context this Microsoft -- Wal-Mart relationship for Linux could be a good thing? I can thing of many reasons and many ways Microsoft can undermine and even try to bury Linux with this Novell Suse bargain (with the Devil?), but I only need think of one.

    Suppose as Wal-Mart moves forward doing "stuff" with Linux things go terrible wrong, or get terribly hard. "No problem", says Microsoft... you need only switch to our SQL Server which of course needs to run on a Vista Server, etc. It's win-win for Microsoft.

    Microsoft gets additional customer share from Linux, and has a diamond-crusted public whipping boy to prove once and for all Linux can't cut it in the big boys' world (business). We all know Linux can, but with big publicity coups I fear Microsoft gains more purchase in the PR war.

    Maybe none of this will come to pass, but do you think for one minute a company that sold out its business partners with "Plays for Sure" (sorry, I know I keep using this as an example...), won't think twice about short-shrifting any value Linux brings to the table? Microsoft has shown itself a predator many times before, there's no reason to think this isn't just one more opportunity for them (and a big one at that).

    • by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:30PM (#17730454) Homepage
      Fantasy land material. Wal-mart's data centers would eat MS products alive. Recall that every transaction is being logged there. About seven years ago, my university recieved a donation of one of their district processing mainframes: something like an 82 way pentium 2 setup. Fantastic sounding stuff, but it was a) too slow for their (regional) needs, and b) too damned hard to make fast (NUMA).

      If Walmart was dissatisfied with Linux, somehow I think Windows would be their last pick. Which makes me wonder, what are they using now? Linux? Solaris?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by KutuluWare ( 791333 )
        My company has done some minor contract work with Walmart. Most of it involved receiving data from their systems for post-processing, particularly print jobs. Based on how their lpr behaves I would guess they are running some form of SVR4-based UNIX, probably HP-UX... of course, I don't work *for* them so I've never logged in to check :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 )
        "Which makes me wonder, what are they using now? Linux? Solaris?"

        As a former Arkansan (Fayetteville, ab't 15 minutes south of Bentonville/Wal-Mart HQ) I remember a buddy of mine who worked there, and IIRC he mentioned AS/400's... a whole farm of them.

        Mind you, this was 1998/1999, but it makes sense that they would use 'em for that time frame. No idea what they're using now, though.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coldsleep ( 1037374 )
      Having worked IT for a large retailer for a number of years, I can tell you that Linux is already in the door at Wal-Mart, and it's not going to be nearly that easy to remove. Note that the quoted portion of the article mentions that Wal-Mart was using RedHat previously. Virtually all of the large retailers did proof-of-concepts with Linux (up to 5) years ago. IT managers are thrilled at the lower TCO claimed by Linux (not that I don't believe it, but Linux isn't free if you're paying RH or Novell or who
    • do you think for one minute a company that sold out its business partners with "Plays for Sure" ... won't think twice about short-shrifting ...

      Please explain how Microsoft sold out its partners with "Plays For Sure". Do they no longer support PFS in Vista? Did they revoke the licenses to their PFS DRM or codecs? [note: the answer is "no" to both of those questions] In my view, if they *had* made Zune a PFS-compatible player (Zune uses a different DRM scheme, as does Urge, their affiliated music store) they

    • by naChoZ ( 61273 )

      Microsoft gets additional customer share from Linux, and has a diamond-crusted public whipping boy to prove once and for all Linux can't cut it in the big boys' world (business). We all know Linux can, but with big publicity coups I fear Microsoft gains more purchase in the PR war.

      I wonder if you might be correct. I'm just coming off of a two week run of suse 10.2. I usually use freebsd as my desktop, but I thought I'd try 10.2 because it comes with xorg-7.2 and I wanted to try some of the gl mode desktop toys. From the get go, it was really slick. I installed it on an employer-provided Dell Inspiron 9300. Everything worked pretty easily, wireless wasn't too tough to get going, the touchpad scroll areas work which was a pleasant surprise, the front multimedia keys worked ri

  • Dear God (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What is the world coming too?
  • by adambha ( 1048538 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:03PM (#17730106) Homepage
    Wal-mart + Microsoft = Linux?

    I've seen fuzzy math before, but this takes the cake.
  • Good news! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:04PM (#17730118) Journal
    I've been waiting for a way to run Linux that managed to simultaneously involve Microsoft, Novell and Wal-Mart! Do you think they can get Lotus Notes into the mix as well?
    • :-)

      The more I think of it in that light, the more I chuckle. Hello, reality check!

      Maybe they think that 2 wrongs will make a right?
    • Do you think they can get Lotus Notes into the mix as well?

      Already done. It comes with Lotus Notes and a machine-gun.

    • That'll happen the day after Wal-Mart Supercenters start selling S&M gear.


  • Please don't tell me there is such a thing as a flying pig - there goes my reality check.
  • by andy314159pi ( 787550 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:06PM (#17730144) Journal
    We'll they'll have to deal with Daryl McBride and his SCO cohorts for selling their UNIX license without permission. Of course, he'll have to ask them to finance his lawsuit against themselves.
  • by Foofoobar ( 318279 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:06PM (#17730148)
    If there were a time for Linux to be made into a tool of destruction to wipe out all mankind, to kick puppies, make children cry, steal candy from babies and import illegal aliens into our country to pay them pennies to work overtime, this would be it's opportunity.
  • But ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by njchick ( 611256 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:07PM (#17730156) Journal
    ... can we call it genuine Linux?
  • The obvious question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by acidrain ( 35064 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:11PM (#17730208)
    Ok I'll ask it. Is seeing Microsoft selling Linux to an insanely large customer a major victory or is this a SCO tax? Do we congratulate or mail-bomb Novell? And wow, eight years ago, running Slackware this was a slightly absurd scenario you would joke about while trying to fix your rc.d scripts after an update.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 )
      I'm going out on a wild limb here with speculation, but that's what /. is all about.

      Assuming Microsoft's business plan of "achieve monopoly status in computer operating systems at all levels" hasn't changed, there are actually a couple of explanations for this that make sense.

      Explanation 1:

      The kind of data centre run by a company like WalMart probably doesn't have a great deal of Microsoft software running. Probably does have a fair bit of Unix, and I'm sure WalMart's IT folks have been idly wondering if t
  • 1 in 5 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow,wrought&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:11PM (#17730214) Homepage Journal
    At least now we know why 1 in 5 dosn't pass certification... []
  • I don't understand the internals, but it sounds like IBM like outsourcing.

    WalMart is seeking guarantees of 100% uptime, no doubt, and leaving it to the support contractor to deliver, by my guess.

  • by CheeseTroll ( 696413 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:15PM (#17730254)
    The company now uses Linux in the data center of its current Web presence but had some trepidation with the idea of expanding it a much larger operation. "To think about using it pervasively, we were very concerned about it," she said. The larger Web operation would have "significantly higher legal exposure."

    Fear? Check.
    Uncertainty? Check.
    Doubt? Check.
    Profit for MS? Check.
    • by mandelbr0t ( 1015855 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:32PM (#17730466) Journal
      OMG Microsoft is only one company away from getting it's filthy hands on the Linux codebase! It's only months before pre-packaged Shaftnix (supported by Novell) hits the market followed by a storm of Novell-specific Linux trojans! This will make Linux people out of (shudder) LUSERS! Why should we taint our beautiful GNU/Linux with the wretched eye-candy that consumers demand?! Attacks on the GPL will continue unabated, and only prostrating yourself at the feet of the mighty RMS and installing Debian will save you from the apocalypse that will come to destroy this unholy union.
      • It's only months before pre-packaged Shaftnix (supported by Novell)...

        ...not to be confused with the similarly-named Shatnix (which, is advertised, by a certain, fat and, old actor).


    • by Nikker ( 749551 )
      The interesting part is Linux owns the Linux TM. If MS does try to do something not kosher then can Linus stop MS from marketing the word Linux? Possibly he would have a say in the marketing aspect so they could not market the entire box as "Linux" but they must outline it is merely an implementation of Linux? I think this could be an interesting card to play if it gets held back until the name gets allot of buzz first then slip in other (cheaper?) implementations of the kernel. I don't think this puts
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      It's not FUD at all. It's one person's opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. Now, if it was a marketing campaign, you might have a point.
  • Good deal for MS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Jamieson ( 890438 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:23PM (#17730362)
    Well I don't see an upside for Linux. The article says

    MS gets rid of vouchers without creating another Linux customer. MS wins
    MS deprives Redhat of Revenue. MS wins
    MS will get some Windows boxes installed at the same time. MS wins

  • Now, we will see one in 5 Linux non-genuine [].
  • I wonder if Microsoft will find that one in five Linux installs on Walmart computers are not genuine?
  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <`ogre' `at' `'> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:01PM (#17730820) Homepage Journal
    I already run Linux virtually on a Windows box. I get the ease of use of Linux with the incredible stability of Windows. Now I can add the unsurpassed support only Microsoft can offer.

  • Walmart is stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:01PM (#17730824) Homepage
    Linux is free.
    • by coldsleep ( 1037374 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:34PM (#17731114)
      No IT manager wants to take the blame for having a critical server crash.

      Especially when the only guy they can reach internally just switched from supporting Windows and the guru is on vacation.

      And the data center is operating on generator because a tornado knocked out the power.

      You get the drift. Non-free Linux == CYA for managers.
      • Wal-Mart's IT infrastructure is so huge, though, that it ought to be handling it all in-house anyway. Wal-Mart's logistical prowess (of which the computer network is a large part) comprises the bulk of its competitive advantage, in exactly the same way that Google's computer network is the bulk of its competitive advantage.

      • by dan828 ( 753380 )
        You really aren't suggesting that a manager would cover his ass by buying an OS for a critical server at Walmart, are you?
    • by Zoxed ( 676559 )
      > Linux is free.

      True, but the article is talking about vouchers for *support* for a particular Linux distro.

      P.S. no disrespect intended to the author, but how the hell did the comment get modded to +5 Insightful ?
  • With Vista being incomplete and a high profile customer Microsoft is better off with this decision. Let's say they don't do it, they lose money. Wal-Mart already uses Linux, smoother transition that is easier to negotiate. MS can "upgrade" the support beyond red-hat ...pauses for laughs... With Vista being THE OS microsoft wants to get everyone on board for I feel they just weren't ready and it was either this or lose the deal to someone else. It's not like they're going to gain a whole lot of support f
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:08PM (#17730890) Homepage Journal

    This takes the cake. Microsoft Linux is next. I predict within 5 years, Vista will become a legacy product, and all new computers will be shipped with Microsoft's Windows API hosted on a Linux kernel.

    For those that don't know, Billy G. made his first big sale of DOS to IBM before he even owned it - or so the rumors go. He bought the rights to what would become MS-DOS from a third party, and then sold it to IBM.

    And it shouldn't surprise anyone that Microsoft is selling what doesn't belong to them. I wonder how the Windows developers feel. Imagine if your job could be eliminated by Linux. Microsoft doesn't care, they're going to sell whatever makes them money.

    When you think about it, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to sell their desktop, rather than the OS:

    • Kernel development is an overhead cost - it isn't seen by the users, and it doesn't sell the OS.
    • Why bother with HW issues when Linux already does that for you - for free?
    • Microsoft has actually been pretty good at making office software - considerably better than OS.
    • Linux has the security Microsoft wishes Windows had.
    • Linux doesn't have the spyware problem Windows does.

    So if Microsoft can hide the complexities of Linux under a familiar interface, they could produce a very compelling product.

    • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:34PM (#17731122)
      I know you think MS is evil and all, but being evil doesn't erase technical issues. Porting full Vista functionality to Linux would probably take a decade at least and if it worked at all, it would probably be much worse than the real thing.

      You buy into the myth that MS isn't capable of writing a an OS as secure and stable as Linux. The truth is they can't write an OS as secure and stable as Linux and still be backward compatible with Windows. Neither can anyone else (not that they want to).

      If the day comes when the financial benefits of compatibilty are outweighed by the costs, we'll find out what kind of OS MS is capable of writing when released from the compatiblity chains that currently bind them.

      Until then, it will continue to be an Apples to Oranges comparison of OS design skills between MS and Linux.
      • by zlogic ( 892404 )

        The truth is they can't write an OS as secure and stable as Linux and still be backward compatible with Windows.

        I think that's why they're promoting the whole .NET thing. .NET was designed to be architecture-independent, and yet it was created in the time when nearly every desktop and server was x86-compatible (with the possible exception of Itanium). But .NET, just like Java only needs the VM and not the whole OS. If every application is written in .NET (and I'm seeing more and more .NET apps), making a backwards-compatible OS is as easy as porting the framework.

        • "If every application is written in .NET (and I'm seeing more and more .NET apps), making a backwards-compatible OS is as easy as porting the framework."

          It would have to be "if every application ever written for Windows was written in .NET" ...

          Since that isn't the case, .NET isn't a solution to the backwards-compatible problem.
    • Pulling an Apple (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bazald ( 886779 )
      It is almost like putting a shiny interface on FreeBSD. Good thing they would have an excellent example to follow on how to sell a free product hidden behind a proprietary GUI.
    • Okay, that's a good prediction, but here's another in support of yours.

      In two years, Microsoft will buy CodeWeavers. Each MS application will ship with the then-current version of CrossOver, for Linux and MacOS. Some time after that, Microsoft will do a premium distro that includes five years worth of service packs and CrossOver updates and their own desktop, so there's still scope for MS to do OEM and retail deals and continue to own the OEM space. Those who want to run MS apps under their favourite dist

  • Long time coming (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:27PM (#17731064)
    I used to work for wal-mart 5 years ago when Kevin was the CIO. There are many linux fans at wal-mart but they have been reluctant to start large implementation because of the ongoing IBM vs SCO lawsuit. Walmart didnt want to get involved. And they have never done business with Red Hat. Walmart will not implement a product without support, period. Since they currently have so much leverage with Microsoft as it is, and no leverage with Novell, this pretty much comes at no surprise.
  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:44PM (#17731236) Journal
    the big concern here is Microsofts relationship with Novell. Now that MSs strategy to support SCO has failed, MS has set their eyes on Novell. Novell, probably rightly, claim ownership of Unix.

    MS might not have a clear plan, but a close ralationship with Novell can be a way to keep close control over Linux as well.

    Imagine a patent/copyright/licencing/enforcement mutual agreement. Now MS sits on the right to enforce any Unix IP rights violation that might occur. MS might also have rights to Linux code released by Novell. Noticing that MS has a lot of money and Novell almost nothing, this or more like a merger, may be inevitable.

    If not a direct threat to Linux, this may make it more difficult for Linux developers in may ways.

    Should Novell donate the Unix I.P. rights to the FSF or the Linux community before it is too late?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:41PM (#17733014)
    it's not a pretty sight.

    1997: It's not a threat

    When I was writing a feature about GNU/Linux for Wired magazine, I contacted Microsoft to find out their views on this new rival. At that time, they were so laid back about it, they were nearly falling over. In fact, GNU/Linux was such a negligible threat, they couldn't be bothered coming up with even a mild bit of FUD for me. They just said: "We have a very talented team of developers making sure NT is the most powerful, flexible, and easy-to-use operating system."

    1999: It's not very powerful

    By 1999, Microsoft's position that GNU/Linux wasn't a threat was no longer tenable. Articles started appearing in the technical press that not only dared to compare GNU/Linux with Microsoft's flagship Windows NT, but actually found it better. One, in a Ziff-Davis title called Sm@rt Reseller, for example, stated: "According the ZDLabs' results, each of the commercial Linux releases ate NT's lunch".

    But help was at hand. In April 1999, a performance testing company called Mindcraft issued a press release headed "Mindcraft study shows Windows NT server outperforms Linux". It then emerged that Mindcraft had been commissioned by Microsoft to carry out the study - the first, but not the last time it would adopt this tactic. A fierce argument between Mindcraft and the open source community ensued about whether the tests had been fair, and how to make them fairer.

    In fact, the end results of the re-run was not completely favorable to GNU/Linux, but something rather interesting happened. The open source community took the failures and used them to improve GNU/Linux to the point where it was indeed more powerful than Windows. By finding and drawing attention to free software's weak spots, Microsoft actually made it stronger.

    2001: It's not very nice

    In the face of the Mindcraft fiasco, and the growing strength of GNU/Linux, Microsoft changed tack. Steve Ballmer was wheeled out to bad-mouth the opposition, as only he can. In 2000, he said: "Linux sort of springs organically from the earth. And it had, you know, the characteristics of communism that people love so very, very much about it." In 2001, talking to the Chicago Sun-Times, he expressed himself even more forcefully: "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

    Powerful stuff. Unfortunately for the FUDmeisters at Microsoft, this kind of name-calling didn't go down too well with its intended audience. Even Microsoft's own research showed this, as revealed in one of the entertaining Halloween memos leaked to Eric Raymond.

    2002: It's not very cheap

    Once again, a massive change of tactics was required. Having failed to convince people that free software was either broken or bad, Microsoft decided to "prove" that it actually cost more to use than Windows - the famous TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership, studies. To achieve this, it drew on the "facts" to be found in a number of white papers from various analysts, all of which, by an amazing coincidence, came up with the result that running GNU/Linux was indeed more expensive than using Windows.

    But it didn't take long for this story to unravel like all the others. First, it was not always clear whether Microsoft had commissioned the white papers that it liked to cite, or whether they were truly independent. This naturally tended to cast doubts on even those that were produced without Microsoft's input. Just as seriously, the TCO methodologies were often completely valueless, involving estimates of costs several years into the future, or the results were presented in a skewed fashion. When this became clear, people felt that they were being duped by Microsoft, and tended to discount the whole exercise.

    The final nail in the coffin of this ironically-named "Get The Facts" campaign from Microsoft is the recent appearance of yet another white paper, which provided cast-iron evidence that GNU/Linux's TCO was actually better than that of Windows (well, as c
  • So, MSFT got caught doing something bad with Novell's IP and ended up being stuck with bunch of Linux licenses to sell. And after a couple legitimate high-profile license purchases they finally found a loophole in the contract. So now, instead of making lucrative sales on behalf of Novell to the high tech corporate businesses they opted for the most common denominator consumer market which by and large is the smallest piece of pie when it comes to computer/OS deployment. More so, this is the area most resis
  • A coupla years ago. The Linux distro on it was trashed - it had a Winmodem, no driver binary. There were Windows drivers sources on the CD, but uh..this is Linux, not Windows. Have no idea if the drivers matched the modem or not, or if they were complete. GCC was missing - no compiler at all on the CD. Also, the NIC card had no driver at all, even in source.
    I called tech support 2 or 3 times. Always got the same guy in India or Pakistan. He spent 30 miuntes or so trying to explain to me how to use Wi
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @12:24PM (#17738704)
    MSFT used to sell the Xenix version of UNIX in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It performed poorly because UNIX was too bulky for x86 CPUs of that era. At that time MSFT was mainly a languages company and toying around with the OS biz. We all know where that went. They transferred PC-UNIX rights to SCO around 1983.

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.