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Major PC Vendors Push For Open Source Drivers 232

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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  • Re:A difference... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Uncle Focker ( 1277658 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:34PM (#23245346)
    Another point is to get these vendors to release open documentation for their hardware as well. It's all fair and good to release open source drivers, but if they are like the crappy, obfuscated nv drivers that nVIDIA put out then I'm going to have to say no thanks.
  • by venolius ( 409629 ) * on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:58PM (#23245596)
    I have a feeling that this vendor push of open source drivers combined with falling prices of hardware (because of increased penetration around the world) will lead to the end of MS as a leading OS supplier for desktops. If more open source drivers are available, this will lead to cheap commodity boxes that run Linux, and these boxes will target users that use a computer only for the Internet and Word Processing (this is already happening with Wal-Mart computers). The base for the Internet/Word processor computer is growing so fast that it is inevitable that MS will falter.

    Once the base of household Linux computers becomes big enough (I'm guesstimating 3%), commodity application developers (low cost applications first) will see Linux as a market, the prices of these boxes will fall further, and both these factors will contribute to further increased market share for Linux. More drivers for external peripherals will also become an industry practice (many leading companies already have Linux drivers for peripherals like printers and all-in-ones).

    At some point, premium application developers for Apple and MS platforms will see that it worth their time to make a Linux port (it may happen quicker because of how relatively simple it would be to make the port from Apple to Linux). Again, this will be followed by increased market share for Linux.

    Once the Linux market share becomes substantial (I don't know how much, say 10%?) the corporate world will realize the gazillion dollars in savings, and make the switch, and MS's fall will be complete. I don't know what will happen to Apple, I think they will be around with the largest desktop share if Jobs is around, considering how well he's boosting market share for Apple (with his history, he might even buy MS out of spite).

    Bill Gates charities look a little smaller now, a pity actually, but Buffet will remain strong, so Gates will still have a good job.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by flymolo ( 28723 ) <flymolo.gmail@com> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:09PM (#23245712)
    1)Start with picking products that have open source drivers for Linux machines
    2) then all machines
    3) then if certain products still don't have an open source driver option threaten to get in the market
    4) last resort do it yourself

    OEMs have a lot of power if they use it
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:29PM (#23245946)
    Vendor A sees the encouragement from Dell and does nothing.

    Vendor B sees the encouragement, makes open source drivers and advertises to Dell

    Dell switches to Vendor B.

    I see vendors who are trying to become component suppliers for Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc, to take these encouragements as meaning "If you can do this, we have a reason for choosing your product over "Generic PC part manufacturer 38321"".

    Sure the big names may not budge (nVidia, Creative, etc) but hey how many PC's are shipped w/ brand name parts?
  • By Open Source, they unfortunately mean only "Linux". I use FreeBSD. I have Marvell chipset on my Dell that FreeBSD doesn't recognize. Marvell's own FreeBSD driver doesn't recognize it either. Instead of having just Open Source drivers, how about they open up the specs for their hardware? No one is asking them to give us their trade secrets they so jealously guard. Just enough information to let the open source folks write a decent driver instead of painstakingly reverse-engineering Windows drivers, or inspecting the hardware. Linux gets a lot of attention, but there are other open OSes out there that would also benefit. I'm not jealous or anything. I use Linux from time to time, but I just happen to fancy BSD more. I think opening up the specs would actually benefit open source instead of just creating "open source" (Linux) drivers. I guess one could examine the Linux drivers to figure out what they're doing and then port it over to [insert your flavour of OS here]. But if you have the open specs, you don't have to do that extra step.
  • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @08:48PM (#23246668) Homepage

    Are you a time traveler from like 6 years ago or something?

    The industry norm today is to provide open drivers and/or open specs. There are no types of common hardware components for which there isn't already a player on the market who is doing that - anyone who is screwing around with new proprietary Linux drivers in 2008 has missed the bus and is basically just wasting their resources for no good reason.

    The time for screwing around with closed drivers is over. There are a few holdovers: Nvidia and Broadcom are the only ones that matter. It will probably make sense to sell Nvidia cards for another six months while the RadeonHD drivers mature. Aside from that, companies that fail to release open source drivers and/or open specs are simply at a competitive disadvantage - and this article indicates that that disadvantage includes selling components to major vendors right now.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @11:08PM (#23247722) Journal
    This is certainly good news for Free OS adoption and use. Increasing the availability of information and drivers should make life easier for anybody who wants to run one.

    That said, though, it may well be that the PC vendors have other benefits in mind as well. Even under Windows, where hardware is generally supported, current OEM drivers have some annoying faults. Interface consistency is abominable at all stages of the process. Driver install packages are a thin layer of Vendor branding wrapped around the OEM's dubious taste in interface design. The installation inevitably includes a haphazard mixture of configuration applets, horrid little tray utilities, and weird looking menus bludgeoned into the standard Windows configuration screens. A basic consumer desktop is likely to have driver packages from several different OEMs, ensuring significant visual and interface inconsistency.

    The system I'm typing on right now(a basic Dell desktop box) is hardly unusual. Some audio options are available through the standard Vista audio config widget, others are available through realtech's audio widget. Both widgets have little "speaker" tray icons and have completely different interfaces(Vista's widget is boring, Realtech's looks like a clip-art explosion in a crab and chrome factory). Video is a similar story. NVIDIA and Vista have an uneasy set of overlapping controls, each with its own dubious aesthetics. Although this system is spared, the same thing is common with both wired and wireless ethernet controllers, scanners, printers(I'm looking at you HP), and whatnot.

    I suspect that the PC vendors would love to be able to use OSS driver code from the OEMs to push this disorganized mess under a consistent interface. Even if they don't care at all about Linux, that would be a fairly easy way to make the Windows experience more pleasant, and more competitive with OSX, which already enforces a fair bit more consistency on OEM drivers. Being able to swap vendors without making the slightest visually apparent change would also likely be a nice bonus.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dk.r*nger ( 460754 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2008 @09:26AM (#23249692)

    No they won't. They will still make all their decisions based on price, all other things being equal.
    Exactly - and now they're making open source drivers one of those things, which then are no longer equal.

    Consider the choice between the sub-standard $10 component with closed source drivers vs. the superior $12 component. Call the producer of the latter and say, "we need 50.000, but only if you slap an open source license on the driver", and see what happens.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak