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Mandriva Businesses Education Microsoft

Mandriva's Open Letter To Steve Ballmer 357

An anonymous reader writes "An entry on the Mandriva Blog, written by Mandriva CEO François Bancilhon, says that the Nigerian government, after ordering thousands of Classmate PCs with Mandriva Linux installed, has suddenly decided that they will instead install Windows. They will pay for the pre-loaded Mandriva Linux on the low-cost computing devices intended for children in the developing world, but immmediately replace the OS. The blog doesn't quite use the 'B' word but does suggest that this was not a decision that the Nigerian government made on its own."
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Mandriva's Open Letter To Steve Ballmer

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  • excuse my stupidity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tritonman ( 998572 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @09:59AM (#21195943)
    but what is the "B" word? Blackmail?
  • by RandoX ( 828285 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:01AM (#21195969)
    My question too. Bribe? Buy-off?
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:05AM (#21196023) Journal
    Fishy things have been going on in Classmate PC Vs OLPC. Recently I read that Microsoft & Intel have already begun shipment [] to Libya of their classmate PCs. Libya had agreed to buy 1.2 million OLPCs [] but, of course, they aren't available yet.

    What's really strange is I can't find anything on this from Microsoft or Intel. You're providing 150,000 laptops at only $200 each to a developing nation for the purposes of education and you don't have a press release outside of that country? Maybe they're just being humble? Or maybe someone was leveraging their ex-boss's many donations to African medicine & development [] to convince the Libyan government to take a different route?

    You know, it's great that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is donating all that money to research and aide but if word gets out that they're using that to influence who those countries do business with, I don't think anyone's going to be impressed anymore. There's something fishy going on here, I'll bet you start to see many more countries make the switch to Classmate PCs over OLPCs ... and not for the technological reasons that they should be concerned with.
  • by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:09AM (#21196089)
    Shouldn't we wait for some more specific information/evidence before we accuse Microsoft of bribery? If Mandriva stops short of this, perhaps we should too - after all, it's a serious charge.

    I'm sure Microsoft had something to do with their decision, but *maybe* it simply came down to convincing Nigeria that its product was better. It sounds like they are giving Windows out for free, that may have impressed the Nigerian government, and does not constitute bribery.
  • by C0vardeAn0nim0 ( 232451 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:12AM (#21196143) Journal
    perhaps because US has sanctions [] against lybia, making a press release about the deal unwise ?
  • Re:Way to go! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:33AM (#21196421) Homepage Journal
    Accusing the Nigerian Government of corruption is like accusing the sun of shining. I can't help thinking he'd have had a far better chance of keeping Linux on those boxes if he'd simply told the Nigerian Govt. that those discount Windows licences that Ballmer was bribing them with could be sold on at a big profit.

    He'd even get bonus points for getting round the EULA by hinting heavily enough that it really ought to be illegal under Nigerian law.
  • Re:Way to go! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:44AM (#21196583) Journal
    The world needs more people who speak their minds and tell the truth with complete disregard for other people's "feelings". It's very refreshing, especially coming from a CEO since most of what big business says to the public and to other businesses and the government is so watered down and devoid of meaning that it doesn't actually say anything at all. I applaud this guy for having the stones to do what he did. The sad thing is, there aren't enough people who respect this kind of behavior, so people that act like this don't tend to get very powerful (or stay powerful for very long). It's sad we live in a time when bullshitting is a more profitable skill than being right--the only thing that should matter.
  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:53AM (#21196733)
    Considering MS's war of extermination - I all Linux users do what we can to make Linux absolutely perfect hardware issues permitting. I mean, I want Linux distributions that are truly superior in every way possible to Windows. I want to make these people sorry they were every born. Mandriva is my distributor and my Linux of choice. While I support all things Linux and would never pose one Linux user against another, I am willing to learn C and C++ forwards and backwards. I will code solutions and drivers for Linux myself if I have too.

    We should stop waiting around for others to do our work for us and stand on our own merits. Let me give an example.

    We are closer to an Exchange solution than everyone thinks. If eGroupware and Kontact supported Kerberos over XML-RPC, Exchange would be finished. eGroupware and Kontact replicate all the features of Exchange and has a technologically superior advantage of funneling everything over HTTP. But it doesn't support Kerberos so it becomes a total nuisense to configure. The fact that Evolution does not support XMLRPC at all is just insane.

    On the Open Office Front. Continue to support ODF, if changes need to be made to ODF to support more features, extend the features. Create versions of ODF backward and foreward compatible. And do whatever it takes to reverse engineer OOXML so that can read them, and resave them as ODF. Lets start really getting serious and making the bastards pay.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:17AM (#21197159) Journal
    Even if MSFT has bribed the officials and gave away Windows for free to erase Linux from the Classmate PC, once word gets around, that the best way to squeeze a nice deal from MSFT is to install Linux first. Then everybody and his brother and his dog will ask for the same deal.

    Further businesses too will realize their negotiating power with MSFT will increase if they could bluff that they are switching to Linux. Again if MSFT calls their bluff and they could not switch, then they would be a deeper hole. So at least a few businesses would realize that the best way to negotiate a deal with MSFT is to reduce their switching cost to Linux as low as possible. Those companies will eschew deep ties and multiple levels of dependency on MSFT tools. This is how monopolies crack in free markets. Illegal acts by the monopolists can prolong, sometime by very long time, the cracks. But if the monopoly the Church had over the affairs of Europe for 1000 years cracked, why not MSFT's control over businesses for just 2 decades?

  • Offshoring (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeff Hornby ( 211519 ) <jthornby@sympati[ ]ca ['co.' in gap]> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:24AM (#21197277) Homepage
    To everybody who thinks that the only reason that Nigeria would switch to Windows is bribery, I offer another possible explanation (note that I have no more evidence for this than anybody else has for bribery allegations):

    Nigeria is one of the few countries in Africa where the economy is not a complete basket case. These countries (particularly South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria) are currently setting up call centres and have stated long term goals to become off-shoring destinations. While there is some off-shoring in the open source world there is a huge market for off-shoring in the Microsoft world. Perhaps the government of Nigeria is looking at that market and thinking that they could take a chunk of India's off-shoring revenue in a few years. If so, training their people to use Windows machines instead of Linux could be considered an investment in the future.
  • by stephanep ( 1182839 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:53AM (#21197757)
    Even for non linux-enthusiastic users, replacing linux by windows on this offer cant be a choice based on a technical and unbiased decision. First, the hardware (i will assume the intel site is updated and match this offer) : [] "DDR-II 256M SO-DIMM" Last time i tryed to use windows XP with 256mb ram, it wasn't exactly fast... Add any word processor on the top of it, and you can be sure scrolling on a reasonably small document with images will be a very frustrating XPeriance. With linux on a reasonably light window manager, it run just fine. Then, the software... Mandriva can come packaged with all the program a student need, and with easy "system + program" update mechanisms, while upgrading applications on windows require at least manual install (if picking freesoftware on the top of windows) or more money. Upgrading the OS : how does Nigeria plan to move to the more recent versions of microsoft windows when XP will be unsupported ? It's a 2001 operating system, and every new MS-OS double the hardware requirements. The failure of vista will mitigate the "end of life" timing of XP, but that's just for a time until microsoft can "persuade more people that Vista is good for them". I can understand mandriva guys to be disoriented by this biased fight. Could Nigeria consider dual booting... Or is more important for ballmer to delete linux than to install windows ?
  • by mrjb ( 547783 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:21PM (#21198201)
    Clearly the open letter was written in an emotional state of mind. Just short of calling names, François insinuates that something fishy went on (and something very well may have), but it doesn't seem he did his homework to figure out if this suspicion was justified. As there is no proof, it rests on only assumptions. Those assumptions may very well be justified, and even correct- but until he has proof, they are just that: assumptions.

    Good thing François didn't actually call names because that would have been slander (please excuse my English Legalese if I used the wrong term).

    Now if I would be Steve, and almost be called names based on nothing but assumptions after winning a round fairly, I don't think I would care much. The taste of victory would just be too strong.

    If I *would* have bribed someone, I'd probably care even less. The letter doesn't tell me anything I don't already know.

    If I would be Steve, had bribed someone and someone could prove it- Now that might make make me throw around a chair or two.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:06PM (#21199813)

    Was the point of OLPC to provide low cost computers to needy children or to promote Mandriva/OSS ??

    Neither, the point of OLPC was to provide hardware, software, and content support for a particular model of education around which the XO's hardware and software and associated content have been developed. Openness, in the OSS sense, supports both flexibility for the user of the system and the model of education that the OLPC is centered around (though it is neither strictly necessary to nor sufficient for that model.)

    The Classmates with Mandriva that Nigeria purchased were not from OLPC, and arguably are less well suited to that model (perhaps because Nigeria had a different educational model in mind), and switching them to Windows makes them even less suited to the model the OLPC project is centered around. OTOH, if it doesn't work out, it will be cheaper to replace Mandriva -- and possibly even a build of the OLPC software stack with slight customization to address the different hardware -- than to replace the laptops with new laptops, though it would be a major headache.

    If the Nigerian Government says "thanks for the computers, but we'd like to make our own choice as to what software to run on them" then how is that bad ? The kids still get their laptops and all the supposed benefits they were to deliver.

    The "supposed benefits" OLPC laptops are intended to deliver are not entirely independent of the software, as you suggest here. However, the OLPC project and laptops aren't more than tangentially relevant to this discussion anyway.

    Is Mandriva suggesting that the entire point of the OLPC project was to force children to use their software to the exclusion of all else ?

    The Mandriva sale has nothing to do with the OLPC project. The OLPC laptops are not Classmates, and they aren't sold with Mandriva, but with a customized version of Fedora with Sugar. The letter from Mandriva might suggest that the entire point of the Mandriva effort in Nigeria was to promote their software and increase its exposure, which would make sense. It might also be the point of the letter to draw attention to possible corruption in the government of Nigeria.

    Here's a neat trick, take the "open letter to Steve Ballmer" and swap any references to Mandriva to Microsoft and vice versa. Now we have a nasty letter from M$ complaining that Nigeria is dumping the Windows OS on their new laptops for Linux., what? If there is an appearance of corruption in a move such as that, whether it favors Microsoft of some competitor, why shouldn't their be a complaint?

    If you find this a perfectly acceptable situation, then admit to yourself that your support for the OLPC project was not to "help the children" but to promote your own beliefs.

    First, the OLPC project has little to do with this, since the Intel Classmate hardware effort and Mandriva and Microsoft's software efforts in the developing world are all alternatives to the OLPC's hardware/software stack, and none of them are part of the OLPC project.

    Second, people who are interesting in helping people are always promoting their own beliefs in doing so, and often have strong beliefs about what are the best ways to help people. Those aren't competing goals as you suggest; they are goals that are always interlinked.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal