making deals with M$

Mark Shuttleworth mark at
Mon Jun 9 17:06:32 UTC 2008

Mark Fink wrote:
> I just read this article:
> I hope this is wrong or I will have to stop using ubuntu and find
> another distro to use. Such a shame...
Mark, Remco

There is (again) absolutely no truth to the rumour that Canonical has 
done a deal with Microsoft for access to codecs - either in return for 
money, or for some other quid-pro-quo.

The recently-announced netbook remix is a prototype of the sort of 
platform that Canonical is working on with OEM's. Those OEM's almost 
always want to make sure that media is *legally* playable by the users 
who purchase their devices, and Canonical will gladly work with 
companies like Real Media or Fluendo to make sure that is possible. If 
you are an OEM you should be able to ship machines based on Ubuntu and 
not break the law, and if you are an individual user you should be able 
to purchase media codecs and not break the law. Those codecs include 
things like Flash, MP3-4, WMV, QuickTime and so on.

That said, I will defend (again) the importance of being willing to work 
with Microsoft, under reasonable and transparent conditions, to further 
goals that we share, if the opportunity arises.

I'm entirely against the idea that any company is "untouchable" - we 
have our values, they have theirs, and it's important to remember that 
we might actually have many things in common. For example, we both have 
an interest in making sure that countries have open and competitive 
internet access, because both Ubuntu and Windows depend on having fast 
internet access for updates. We might well work together to encourage 
good telecommunications policy. To reject that sort of collaboration is, 
in my mind, just as self-defeating as it was for Microsoft to call the 
GPL "a cancer". The reality is that the world is a heterogenous place, 
and Windows and Linux are both real forces that need to be accommodated. 
That does not mean we need to sell out on fundamental principles, as we 
think some distributions have done, but it does mean we need to stay 
open to the possibility of collaboration on terms that we are 
comfortable with. It's not working with Microsoft that would be wrong, 
it's working with Microsoft in a way that undermines free software. And 
Canonical has not and will not do that.

There is nothing new in what is being done with the netbook remix. It is 
not an edition of Ubuntu. It is not even a real "finished product" - 
what you have are a set of packages that can be used together with 
Ubuntu to make the starting point of an image for an OEM. There is no 
intentions to put proprietary codecs into standard Ubuntu - that would 
be against our stated principles. You are welcome to download and modify 
any of the pieces Canonical has put together for that remix. The remix 
is more of a statement of intent to the OEM industry - that there is an 
easy to use, classy, effective starting point for their devices that is 
intrinsically Ubuntu while still being friendly for "newbie netbook users".

OEM's have always - as long as I have been around - wanted to help users 
with the codec problem. Dell very kindly underwrites the cost of DVD 
playback for people who purchase a machine from them with Ubuntu 
pre-installed, using legal codecs and players. You might well question 
the wisdom of the law that makes it necessary for that to be 
proprietary, but I think Dell deserves praise and thanks for their 
willingness to help their customers make DVD playback work. The more 
people are using Linux, the more awareness there is of free software 
issues, the more likely it is that laws are not written which make it 
impossible to do things in a free software way. I'm proud to be part of 
the process of bringing free software to a wider audience, and don't 
believe that working with OEM's to make it possible for products - or 
end users - of Ubuntu to achieve their goals legally is a setback in 
that regard.

While I appreciate the vigilance of folks who have expressed concerns on 
this thread, and understand that the role of Canonical within Ubuntu is 
such that we *must* have constant scrutiny of Canonical's decisions by 
the broader community, I would ask that this scrutiny itself be held to 
a high standard. This rumour and thread sprung up with no evidence of a 
breach of trust on the part of Canonical, and escalated into ad hominem 
attacks that are not in keeping with the Ubuntu code of conduct. I 
encourage people to ask questions of their leaders in the community, but 
not to slander them without evidence.

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