Microsoft's failed attempt to wean Intel off Linux

Microsoft tried for years to push Intel off Linux and solely onto Windows, but Intel resisted, thereby providing an example to the rest of the industry.

Roy Schestowitz pulls some tasty morsels from the exhibits in Comes vs Microsoft, Microsoft's antitrust suit with the State of Iowa. It has long been known that Microsoft leans heavily on its hardware partners to privilege Windows at the expense of competitors, but the emails in Comes give a bird's eye view of how Microsoft thinks (or thought).

Here's an email sent by Eric Rudder, then SVP of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism team, back on November 20, 2001, to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer:

[Floating point] is a case where we have fallen behind Linux, thanks to Intel's great work w. Linux compilers. They can help us with the Math libraries and some OpenMP stuff. We want access to their benchmark/test suites. it's crazy that we can't get Intel to do Windows first, then Linux (if they must)....

If we don't get Intel off of Linux internally (the failed EDA project) - we will never get the *cultural* alignment that we want. There are simply too many folks at Intel who use/love the stuff [i.e., Linux] and want to improve it. We can *not* stop trying to win this project.

Additional documents in the suit suggest that Microsoft went to great lengths to cajole Intel into taking a Windows-favorable strategy, but ultimately Intel has been one of the few to withstand Microsoft and promote Linux and open source extensively. Intel saw early on that the server business and mobile would heavily lean toward Linux, even if the desktop did not, and ensured it had a credible story there, which required contributing actively to Linux and other open-source projects.

Is there a lesson in this for Dell, HP, and other Microsoft-friendly OEMs?

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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