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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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  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flymolo ( 28723 )
      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
      • by mgblst ( 80109 )
        No they won't. They will still make all their decisions based on price, all other things being equal. They can't afford to, with the great level of competition.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dk.r*nger ( 460754 )

          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.
    • 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 nonet
      • Data centers? Server hardware already has 100% Linux driver support; the problem is on the desktop.
        • by jd ( 1658 )
          Server hardware does NOT have 100% support, or anything like. I won't list all examples, but here's a few you can think about:
          • Broadcom BCM91250
          • Non-Mellanox Infiniband
          • Some Compaq RAID controller modules
          • PCI Express 2.x (full specification)
          • Infiniband 3 (full specification)
          • VME and VXI busses
          • Fieldbus support is minimal to non-existant
          • SCADA support is negligible to non-existant
          • BACnet support is negligible to non-existant
          • VAX architecture (it's still used, so it's still part of that 100%)
          • ARM-based AMULE
      • 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 jd ( 1658 )
          Certain aspects of a driver depend on the hardware alone and are platform-agnostic. (Let's say some company had an ethernet chipset and chips for PCI and Hypertransport, and made two versions of their card, one PCI-whatever, the other Hypertransport. Oh, the chipset uses an abstract signalling and abstract messaging mechanism. Their bus chips convert these into the form appropriate for the bus and vice versa. The messages you pass to the chipset will be the same for both versions. The transport doesn't chan
        • One alternative (if they don't want to publish their specs) is to release only Linux drivers, but to release them under a 2-clause BSD license or in the public domain instead of the GPL or "other". Linus can release them with the kernel by adding the appropriate restrictions, including the additional warranty disclaimer, and the copyright statement in the file, but other projects can create new versions under licenses that are differently- or less-restrictive compared to the GPL without having to cleanroom
        • by Eivind ( 15695 )
          This is unfortunately partly true. The good thing is though, that if there exist well-working open source drivers for Linux, then by nessecity, the documentation needed for writing drivers for other OSes is available.

          This sucks, but atleast it is MUCH better than having to guess and reverse-engineer to figure out how to use a device.

          So, even for BSD-fans, a device that is supported (by an open driver!) in Linux is much preferable to one that is totally closed.

          Offcourse, if all you get is a -closed- driver f
        • by ianare ( 1132971 )

          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].
          Which is much much easier than when you only have a blob. Having open source Linux drivers helps everyone, really.
          I do agree that open specs are very important, but you take what you can get.
        • And by "Open Source" they mean the source code for the Linux drivers is available, but they really are not taking in patches or code from other people outside the companies... Which is why I agree it would be better to also give away the specs.
        • Drivers have been ported back and forth between Linux and *BSD for some time now. Personally, I'm just glad if they have ANY kind of Open drivers, which by definition can be ported around to the various other operating systems if anyone cares. I don't care about *BSD because Linux is taking over all the spaces it used to be better in, but if you do, I suggest you get to work porting drivers. The companies understandably don't want their hardware measured with the yardstick of someone else's driver, and agai
      • by jimicus ( 737525 )

        What will make a difference is that the managers who make decision in data centers

        Stop right there.

        Unless we're talking at cross purposes, I would imagine data centres to mean server farms. Not desktop PC's.

        Linux support on servers is by and large pretty damn good. Server vendors tend to be fairly conservative in the hardware they choose, SCSI/SAS RAID cards have excellent support in Linux as do most wired ethernet cards - far and away the most important things.

        Desktops, OTOH - oh hell. Dell's current Optiplex 755 is quite nice for Linux support - it's entirely Intel. But AFAICT Del

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by javilon ( 99157 )
      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 w
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        "hey will be able to get a bigger margin on sales and/or bigger market share just by dropping the M$ tax. "

        ummm.. No.
        All it will do is lower the cost by the amount the license costs. And it will apply to all the PC makers. So the cost of all PCs drop by about 20 bucks. Maybe not 20 bucks, but these PC makers do not pay retail, not by a long shot. When I was in that business, Win NT cost 15 bucks from MS.
        The biggest cost is the installation and configuration of the OS.
        • 20 bucks is non-trivial if you're shipping a hundred thousand machines that retail at $300 each.

          But the real thing here is simply flexibility. Dell isn't going to stop selling Windows any time soon. Lenovo hasn't even started selling Linux. But having the option to push Linux on any product line at any time is huge for these vendors.

          The biggest cost is the installation and configuration of the OS.

          That's... false. Getting disk images onto hard drives is a solved problem, and making the disk image is a one

        • by kesuki ( 321456 )
          lawsuits about anti-competitive practices of microsoft may have changed things.

          I realize that at one point microsoft was giving $15 licenses to OEMS who agreed to only ship microsoft, but now there is an oversight committee that reviews every change microsoft attempts to add to windows, as well as every contract they sign with oems etc.

          I'm not sure what they pay now, but microsoft can no longer include exclusivity clauses.

          but keep in mind OEMs are the bread and butter of microsofts core business windows, ba
      • 800.. that's the 800 lbs. gorilla.. 300 lbs. is close to 200 lbs. gorilla which means something entirely different. A 300 lbs. gorilla is a pushover. Why do people keep screwing this saying up?
    • 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?
      • It's even better than you surmise. When folks like Dell start shipping boxes with components inside that have Open Source drivers, it won't be long before the nVidia's of the world sit up, take notice, discover that there's money to be made, and then start producing drivers for their stuff too. They'd have to be mad, not to. There's a tipping point that's being approached, and once it gets crossed, the Open Source avalanche is on for real. And my gut reaction is that we're closer to that tipping point t
        • The problem is, the nVidias of the world are already losing to the Intels of the world. And they're firm in their belief that Intel is winning laptops because they're a low margin, low feature product. They're right, sadly. nVidia knows there's money to be made, but don't think sharing their driver code would make people pick them. It might lead to discovering a few interesting ideas in their drivers that propgate to other drivers, but more likely is a large set of bugs will be exposed and all those patent
          • by Svartalf ( 2997 )
            Actually, they're losing to the AMDs of the world. AMD's in that same league as NVidia- they're just hampered in many ways by their closed drivers. The drivers are gelling a bit quicker than I'd thought they would and AMD thought they would on the FOSS front. When they do, you're going to see a driver that supports most of AMD's R300 and up lineup at pretty much full speed.

            No proprietary drivers needed.

            What's NVidia going to do then?

            Moreover, Intel's changing their story as well. If Larabee turns out as
        • So, if I understand you correctly, what you're saying is that... This could be the Year of the Linux Desktop?


    • What Dell and the others are saying is that they will place "availability of Open Source divers" in the set of selection criteria.

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )
      The suspense is killing me. Will they eat? Will they sleep? Will they mow the lawn?

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )
      If it's anything like the stuff I've seen going on over the last handful of years, the answer would be that if you don't provide that FOSS support in an open manner, you may find yourself high and dry.

      There's several reasons why AMD and Intel have opened up the technical information and bankrolled development of drivers for their GPUs. This would be one of the main ones. The OEMs have been quietly leaning on vendors for at least Linux support if not full-on open tech data or drivers for at least the last
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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.
      • Dell doesn't really care about how open or how non-crappy they are.

        What they want is Linux-supported hardware and the easiest way to get that is usually submitting a GPL driver to the kernel developers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kjella ( 173770 )

      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.

      Obviously, but there's a give and get in negotiations. I've dealt with enough RFQs that I know it's a wishlist and a bargaining ground and all the wanted features have a value. It's not a matter of getting the contract or not, it's a matter of whether the manufacturers can use this to squeeze margins. If providing open source drivers costs them less than the alternatives (lower price, developing other features etc) then it'll happen, even though they'd get a contract regardless. When it comes down to it, u

    • I hold out hope that, at the very least, those vendors with decent OSS support will slowly start to be favored, especially for basic hardware like network or graphics cards. I can't tell you how annoying it is to discover that, with no warning from the manufacturer, I find a Broadcom wireless card in a computer and have to come up with a kludgish workaround. Vendors may not be able to simply cancel contracts, but they certainly can show favoritism, especially when there is not much of a price difference (
    • 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.

      It does, however, send a clear message to the companies as they look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors that this is one of those ways, and that it will carr
    • Computer companies need the flexibility to change their offerings to meet changing market conditions. The Eee PC has made consumers aware of Linux. Here in New Zealand, Linux-loaded Acer laptops are available at some retail stores and sell quite quickly - I'm using one right now. Even Apple has had a beneficial effect for Linux because they have encouraged people to look beyond Windows. Of course MS have helped too by shipping Vista and building a negative perception (whether warranted or not is beside the
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WebCowboy ( 196209 )
      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
    • Are you serious? A major change is not going to happen overnight. It is a slow and tedious process. End users had to be relentless to get PC makers to acknowledge there is desire, interest, and benefit to support OSS. What has happened in recent years? Major advancements in OSS proliferation. Dell and IBM are some big names that have really made some good progress towards brining OSS into the mainstream. Now they are bringing up the fight to hardware vendors. It takes time. Relax. Dont be so cynical.
    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      exactly what I was thinking since the OEMs can require stuff from their suppliers. But then I thought about how Microsoft dictates to the OEMs that they can't "lead with Linux". My guess is that this is the best they can currently do given the pressure from Microsoft and the desire to grow Linux product lines without threatening the million is kickbacks they get from Microsoft marketing programs.

      The OEMs are in a tough spot and with Microsoft's Windows revenues down 24% this quarter, they are going to be ge
    • If somebody who is going to buy 10 million parts a year from you "strongly recommends" something, you can bet your backside the vendor will comply unless it is partically impossible for them to do so.
    • Dell was probably startled by the EEE...

      Went to their software team and asked if they could do the same thing if it came to it... they were probably told something like "we could probably get most of the companies to give us drivers, but there would be a strong incentive to hold out until the end then try to negotiate against the value of the product line."

      You just don't want someone else to be able to destroy you with software. Looks like Dell got a lesson in IP that being chummy with MS didn't teach t
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      If you believe that, you obviously haven't seen what Dell does to their vendors.

      They all sit in Dell's parking lot with giant trucks and Dell picks parts one case at a time. Don't want to park a truck in Dell's parking lot? That's OK, somebody else does.

      Trust me, if Dell, HP AND Lenovo are all saying together that they are going to start encouraging open source drivers, it's happening...

    • It's easy to blame Dell or HP, but if either one of them refuses to ship, say, an nVidia graphics chip, consumers won't think twice about crossing them off the list.

      The general public needs to feel the need before this can really change.
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )
        The Dell and HP crowd aren't the sort to care.

        Plus, Dell already has a "gamer" brand that they can exclude from these
        requirements so that they don't alienate that sort of customer.
  • 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 kno
    • Most hardware? Which hardware is "most". Not wireless drivers, not graphics cards properly, does bluetooth work right, how about mobile phone access beyond seeing it as a mass storage device? Linux needs similar support from many many companies before you can make a statement like this.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jbengt ( 874751 )
        Wintel peripherals != most hardware
      • by JohnBailey ( 1092697 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @09:44PM (#23247154)

        Most hardware? Which hardware is "most".

        Well.. Off the top of my head, Sound cards, video cards, SATA interfaces, CD and DVD drives, floppy drives, memory interfaces, mother board chipsets, processors, keyboards, mice, network cards, monitors, video cards, MP3 players, TV tuner cards, printers, scanners, temperature and fan speed monitoring sensors on motherboards, and many more devices. Linux is already more functional on first boot than Windows has ever been. It doesn't support all models from all suppliers, but nothing does, so pointing out a specific brand and model is not going to fly as a criticism. When I install Fedora 9 next month, the only drivers I need to install are my video card and perhaps my printer, although even that was already in the CUPS driver list with F8. Everything else is already in place and automatically detected. Not to mention support for common systems like mass storage which allow the use of USB keys, MP3 players, card readers, cameras, external hard drive caddies etc.

        Not wireless drivers,

        Correction.. Not ALL wifi drivers. Ask the FCC or whatever the local equivalent is. A Wifi card is a radio transmitter Thus is bound by strict regulations. 100% Open source drivers for a wifi card basically allow the informed user to muck around with a radio transmitter, which depending on the band, is illegal. Change the law, and Wifi could be universally supported within a very short time, instead of just some chip sets. Much of it already is. Otherwise there would be no way for the Eee to connect to a wireless hub, or for my N800 to connect to the Internet, which would be pretty awkward for a wireless Internet tablet.

        not graphics cards properly,

        No? Then how come my Nvidia card works flawlessly under Fedora. And has since I put it in my Linux box. Even the thermal sensor works and displays in Gkrellm's (Linux system monitor) sensor display. It's currently running at 53 degrees centigrade in case you are interested. 3D acceleration is also functioning perfectly, so I can play NWN under Wine or via the Linux client, And any Linux game that needs 3D features works well. Compiz Fusion also works very well, which it couldn't without the Nvidia drivers being installed. ATI is also in the process of releasing open drivers for some of it's cards, and Intel have had their cards supported for years with open drivers. Nvidia will very likely follow if they can work around the complications of the various IP restrictions in their drivers.

        does bluetooth work right,

        Yes. Plug and play. In my experience, easier than Windows. No driver to install, no software to install. It "just works". So I only have to plug my bluetooth dongle into any USB port and I can transfer files across effortlessly from my PDA or from my N800. I can also use my bluetooth GPS module with Fedora and my N800, but in the case of Fedora, it is a bit redundant as it's a desktop, and unless my home gets caught up in a tornado, it is unlikely to be changing location.
        In Fedora 9 I can also synchronize my Palm via bluetooth out of the box even with a live CD, so minimal functionality. Can Windows do that? Windows can't even recognize my Palm without me installing the drivers and an application to handle the PDA, and XP home needs extra software to share the Internet connection with my palm after a complicated set up procedure.

        how about mobile phone access beyond seeing it as a mass storage device?

        No idea. I don't have a mobile. Although I can't see any compelling reason why not. Some phones use Linux right now, and with the various Linux based phones in development at the moment, there will be more likelihood of support. Bluetooth has recently got a support boost and more bluetooth features are being activated.

        Linux needs similar support from many many companies before you can make a statement like this.

        Linux already HAS support from many companies. Apart from corner case s

  • I would SUE the hardware makers for not giving information/specs for their stuff.

    The reason being is that they are only supporting Monopolysoft with drivers.

    • Sue them for what ?

      What kind of damages could you possibly claim ?

      There is no law requiring a hardware manufacturer to release the source code for their drivers or to support multiple operating systems etc. (whether there should be is a whole different topic). Not to mention that to sue someone is to take them to CIVIL court to get compensation for damages that they caused you and has absolutely nothing to do with criminal or anti-trust matters etc.

      Microsoft got in hot water because they abused their monopo
    • Good luck with that.

      Many (all?) hardware vendors have proprietary designs. Darn. nVidia and ATI/AMD might sport over open source drivers and be happy about it, but Broadcom has a long history of not wanting to open-source their firmware. They consider it a competitive advantage, apparently, and too precious to give away.

      I hear Broadcom WiFi hardware is becoming less and less popular these days. A lesson being learned?

      Still, if the hardware vendor wants to protect their IP, sometimes this will collide wi
      • We're not talking about designs, we're talking about drivers. Two totally different things.

        Also, neither NVidia nor ATI produce open source drivers although ATI recently released specs to aid in development of open source drivers. Again, these are just specs how to interface with the card, not super top secret details about the inner workings of the card. There is nothing valuable about the interface.
        • by cdrguru ( 88047 )
          Wrong. These days the hardware is pretty much commodity and the driver is the only unique IP there is. The problem is if they give away the driver they have given away all there is that is unique - any Chinese knock-off company can the duplicate the hardware and steal the software to make it work.
  • Vendor's Real Intent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • that some people are have towards the "strong recommendation", I point out that this is how businesses negotiate. It starts with "we want you to", followed by the vendor response. It's the, "I asked you nicely approach"...

    If the vendor doesn't respond, then the ante will be upped. The PC sellers need more market. Things are pretty cutthroat for the Dell's and HP's of the world. If the vendor doesn't help in the company in its move to expand its market... yeah, pressure will be brought... and in this case, L
    • by njcoder ( 657816 )
      This is also how businesses appease a loud but small market segment. They make some noise, but don't actually do anything. When the hardware manufacturers don't comply, they can shift the blame on them.

      No way of knowing what will really come of it.
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )
        Dell sells business machines too, not just the toy desktop machines.

        When it comes to server hardware, Linux isn't merely a "loud but small market segment".

        This is probably what got Linux in the door at Dell as a desktop solution to begin with.

        Linux is doing what Microsoft did but in reverse ( server -> desktop ).
  • 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.
    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )
      Firefox is barely hanging on with 10-12% web browser marketshare, and it's avalible on all computers past and present, including those with windows. Apple hovers between 3-7%. I'm reasonably sure that linux is less than 1% of the desktop market. I can't really see Linux eating into Windows' share, more like eating into Apple's. I'm getting ready to switch from apple to linux as soon as they fix the voicechat bug in wine for TF2. There are already lots of developers for posix compliant OSes. Really you only
      • Firefox is barely hanging on with 10-12% web browser marketshare, and it's avalible on all computers past and present, including those with windows. Apple hovers between 3-7%. I'm reasonably sure that linux is less than 1% of the desktop market.

        I'm not sure where you got your numbers, but my psychic powers (which are unquestionably accurate) told me that NetBSD has 60% of the desktop market and OS/2 has 35%... so your numbers must be wrong.

    • by kesuki ( 321456 )
      just to be helpful, if OEMs pay $10 for windows, that's 2.5 billion a year to the Microsoft tax, if PC sales remain the same or increase and continue to sell in the current volumes, then by 2108 at least 255 billion dollars will have been saved by switching to Linux. realistically though growth has been rapidly accelerating, and the actual number goes much higher, if growth is 10% a year, every year, then in 6 years we make 2 billion new PCs, in another 4 years after that another 2 billion pcs, 3 years afte
  • I don't see why people think this is a bad thing. A big company like Dell can bankrupt smaller companies overnight just by failing to renew a contract or not ordering more parts.
    They already squeeze them tight for the best prices and only pay them for any components they use - those stocks taking up space in Dell's warehouse don't cost them a penny until they go into a machine (That's already been paid for by the buyer).
    So imagine if two companies had say...wireless cards. One has a major deal with Dell, bu
    • One has a major deal with Dell, but no Open Drivers, then the other announces they suddenly have Open Drivers. Is it anything on Dell's head to tell the first company to either cough up some open drivers or come and pick up their unused parts before they get discarded?

      Yes. Dell needs to have multiple vendors in their pipeline so they can get them to compete where they really care, on price, as Dell usually buys the cheapest part X available on a given day from whomever. At least for consumer desktops, that is how they operate. I seriously doubt open source drivers are going to be a consideration on the low end and they sure haven't been in the past (speaking as someone who ordered hundreds of the same model from them only to find a wide variety of parts actually inside

  • >> they will now include wording in their hardware procurement processes to "strongly encourage" the delivery of open source drivers

    ooooh and if you don't provide linux drivers we'll still buy your hardware but we will wag our finger at you and tell your mom.

    Why can't they just say that they won't even consider buying any hardware that doesn't have Linux drivers?
    • Why can't they just say that they won't even consider buying any hardware that doesn't have Linux drivers?
      Saying "strongly encourage" with other big companies in a public forum like this is the nice, business way of saying "There are already Intel wireless cards with good open source drivers, if broadcom doesn't get with the program, we'll dump them; but we're not naming names because we're playing nicey-nice... for now."
  • have to lose. 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. It's worked for Linksys routers. I wouldn't have purchased my particular Linksys unless I knew I could put HyperWrt on it.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:46PM (#23246120)

      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.

      • Wish I had mod points for you.

        Best answer to this question I've seen in a pretty good while.
      • by ydrol ( 626558 )
        Also they dont want Modders keeping the drivers working against new OSs working when they would rather consumers use the oppertunity to buy new hardware ..Cough.. Creative/Vista .. Cough.
      • Also, they cut corners on development costs by buying some of the code and legally can't open source it - e.g. some proprietary codecs, or signal processing technology.
        • by pembo13 ( 770295 )
          Then they didn't buy it, they licensed it.
  • And yet HP still refuse to provide linux drivers for their printers. Hmm.
    • by pembo13 ( 770295 )
      You must be mad.
    • And yet HP still refuse to provide linux drivers for their printers. Hmm.

      What year are you living in? My HP Deskjet 6540 has been working flawlessly in Linux using HP's drivers [] for a good 3 or 4 years now...

      That's not even including the Deskjet (870cxi or something like that, I forget now) I had before that, which was also in the same situation.

      • Where can I download the PPD driver for the HP Color LaserJet CP3505x printer?

        I emailed HP and they said flat out that they will not support Linux or Mac.
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )
      Well... the last HP printer I bought was bought because it was
      the cheapest available with the features I wanted. Despite this
      it all "just worked" once I plugged it into Ubuntu. I am not sure
      that I would want a Windows style driver package for it.

      Given the fact that HP has always tended to use common standards
      for their printers, I can't really see the point of your rant.
      Some of their stuff is even used by other printer vendors to make
      their printers more OS neutral.
  • One problem, is that even if there are "open source" drivers available, for what platform? Mac OSX? Solaris? BSD? Linux? Windows?

    Or maybe they are drivers for an older kernel version? New kernels don't link against old drivers, and new versions of GCC don't necessarily *compile* old drivers.

    And then of course, there's installation of drivers. Common stuff like video drivers tend to be included in distros... but what about things like fingerprint readers, USB printers, etc? Installing a driver, doesn't just
  • Why the open source drivers? I think the PC makers want to get out from under microsoft as much as or maybe even more than anyone else. With MS Windows there is no way to be "different" so people shop by price. None of them like this race to the botom. Was long as they continue to sell Windows machines they wil remain in this destrouctive race.

    Microsoft's problem is that back when PCs cost $1000 charging $40 for the OS was reasonable but now that you can build a PC for $250 that $40 paymant to Microsof
  • The issue is that most hardware is a commodity now, with all of the specialization and unique features being done in the driver or firmware. Take that out with "open drivers" and you have opened the door for Dell, HP, etc. to make their own copy of anything that a vendor doesn't want to play ball with. Too much margin? Fine, just buy the Chinese copy.

    This has nothing to do with Linux and everything to do with control over their own destiny. Being able to tell Broadcom, nVidia and everyone else to take a
  • 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.

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone