Kevin Purdy

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Europeans and Americans think different (no, seriously) about Microsoft

27 Sep 2007

Illustration from The Economist How come the kid representing Linux has the unkempt hair?

To say the least, Microsoft’s varied efforts at stonewalling or segmenting the Linux market have gotten markedly different receptions in the U.S. and Europe.

Take, for example, this report in the Sept. 20 issue of The Economist, which summarizes the findings by a trial court for the European Union in upholding an antitrust ruling against Microsoft:

(The EU) argued, for instance, that withholding information that is needed for PCs and servers to work together constitutes an abuse of a dominant position if it keeps others from developing rival software for which there is potential consumer demand. In such cases, the information cannot be refused even if it is protected by intellectual-property rights, as Microsoft had argued.

In other words, because Microsoft’s utter domination of the business desktop market has led it to stonewall efforts by non-Microsoft server suppliers to play nice, the EU could force the Redmond giant to hand over the source code for Windows.

Over here in the U.S., it’s, well, different. The networking company Novell, which announced in November 2006 that it would partner with Microsoft to make its own Linux products play nice, is apparently glad it did so, to the tune of a 250% jump in business. [Link via /.]

[Novell director of marketing Justin Steinman] said part of its growth was directly related to the Microsoft deal, adding that Novell has billed more than US$100 million in business through its Microsoft relationship. He added that the growth was also due to the halo effect of the arrangement.

Sounds great for Novell. Note, however, that Microsoft agreed to give away a total of $240 million in vouchers for Novell-provided support as part of the deal, and Novell has cashed in 44 percent of them, according to Computer Business Review – coincidentally, that’s about $105 million.

Regardless of whose books the boost is recorded on, it’s interesting to see how Microsoft’s firm stance on “inter-operability” generates source code demands in Europe, but invoices in the U.S.