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Locked-Down Tablets Endanger FLOSS For End Users 242

Posted by timothy
from the debian-friendliness-as-coal-mine-canary dept.
itwbennett writes "If you buy into the idea that tablets (and ultrabooks, and smartphones) in the enterprise are nothing more than glorified thin clients, then Microsoft's Surface presentation seemed more flashback than future. And if you're a fan of free software, the announcement might also have struck fear in your heart. While Microsoft has never locked out apps based on license, it's not impossible that they might chose a more locked-down Apple-esque approach for Surface, writes blogger Brian Proffitt. 'And that could put free software for end users very much at risk.'"
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Locked-Down Tablets Endanger FLOSS For End Users

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  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:01AM (#40385379)
    A post for some anti-Microsoft tinfoil hat? Must be a slow news day.
  • Lock Out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grudge2012 (2662391) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:02AM (#40385405)
    It's not Apple locking out GPL, its the GPL locking out the App Store.
  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:12AM (#40385543)

    A post for some anti-Microsoft tinfoil hat? Must be a slow news day.

    Indeed.

    But you know, it's Microsoft's product, they can build it however they want - you're not obligated to buy it.

    On the other hand, if you DO buy it, nothing should stop you from at least trying to unlock it and load some other OS... You *do* own the hardware, but MS can design, build, and load it however they damn well feel like...

  • Re:FUDD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:12AM (#40385545)

    +1. I was aboout to post the same thing. This is a BLOG that is filled with nothing but speculation to induce fear, uncertainty, and doubt about what Microsoft MIGHT do to lock-out devices. It was a waste of my time to read. 1/10 stars.

    The final paragraph should have been the /. summary: "Free software won't completely go away, of course. There's too much back-end functionality in too many IT sectors for that to ever happen. But with the rise of thin clients and the app store gateways, end users may have a harder time finding and installing free software for their personal or business use."

  • Fearmongering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr AT telebody DOT com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:14AM (#40385573) Homepage Journal

    tl;dr: "they are could be closed devices"

    This typo is a good summary of the article.
    Perfectly good vocalizing about the death of open systems.. except that it hasn't happened yet has it. Wake me up after the product launch.

  • Re:Lock Out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardpriceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:24AM (#40385703)

    Under the GPL, Apple become the party burdened with ensuring the license is fulfilled, as they are the distributor - so yes, the license is to blame. There is no scope in the GPL for Apple to be anything other than the distributor, there is no allowance for an agent model, or a silent party (who holds no liability) acting as an enabler between the recipient and the originator.

    And as this wasn't even duscussed during GPL v3 talks, yes it is a problem with the license - a deliberate one. The FSF and Gnu want to put entities like Apple into this position.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:26AM (#40385735)
    If you look at some of the MS SDK licenses, redsitributables and similar things, you often find a clause refering to 'identified software' - here's an example, taken from the ASF/WMA/WMF specification license (http://read.pudn.com/downloads3/sourcecode/multimedia/9891/ASF%20Specification%20v.1.0/ASF%20Specification%20v.1.0.doc, abridged for clarity):

    "2 (g) ...your license rights to the Specification are conditioned upon your (a) not distributing the Implementation in conjunction with Identified Software (as defined below); (b) not using Identified Software (e.g. tools) to develop the Implementation; and (c) not distributing the Implementation under license terms which would make the Implementation Identified Software. ... Identified Software includes, without limitation, any software that requires as a condition of use, modification and/or distribution of such software that other software distributed with such software (x) be disclosed or distributed in source code form; (y) be licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (z) be redistributable at no charge"

    The details vary between different licenses.. The most restrictive, those on things like the ASF specification that I used as an example, prohibit even using 'Identified Software' at any stage in the development process.

    Translated roughly from legalese, this means that if your software is open source or even if you allow users to redistribute it, you aren't even allowed to put it on the same CD as a microsoft redistributable. If you use one of the affected SDKs or licensed specifications that takes the most restrictive variation then you are not only prohibited from releasing your source, or allowing others to redistribute your software, but you can't so much as use vim or emacs to edit your code or GCC to compile it. I also find almost the same clause in things like the Windows XP Embedded EULA, so if you make a product which depends upon XP Embedded then you are not able to open-source the application software that you wrote to run on it.

    If Microsoft were to go full-on Evil Empire once again, this is exactly the clause they would probably adapt. All they'd need to do is pass a policy that no 'Identified Software' be permitted in the marketplace. A trivial legal change, and it would easily and effectively not merely bar open source software from the market (And thus Windows RT entirely, as well as use of the metro interface), but possibly even prohibit any Windows dev hoping for commercial success or any accessibility to the ARM mobile users from even utilising open-source development tools.
  • Re:Lock Out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bhlowe (1803290) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @11:33AM (#40385847)
    I think the iOS $0.99 per sale model is better in the long run than the "Free as in GPL" model. At least making a $0.70 per sale can defray some of the development costs. Writing an tablet app, not charging anything for it, and giving away the source code seems to me like shooting yourself in the foot--unless you're part of the small minority of coders who don't need to earn a living.
  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian (588974) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:02PM (#40386283) Homepage

    But you know, it's Microsoft's product, they can build it however they want - you're not obligated to buy it. [..] You *do* own the hardware, but MS can design, build, and load it however they damn well feel like...

    Yawn, it's the old "it's a free market and it's their product and you're not obliged to buy it so you have no right to criticise " response that keeps popping up on Slashdot, either from the mouths of fanboys or from those who (incorrectly) think this is how a free market works.

    Let's me be clear- the first (non-italicised part) is valid and reasonable. The problem is when the above types assume that the "no right to criticise" bit follows too. That part is either stated explicitly or implied (as in the above case, since the comment was posted in the context of being a response to criticism of MS's behaviour (*)). Either way, it's wrong.

    Yes... yes, they're entitled to do what they like (within reason). And similarly, people are morally entitled to criticise things about that they disagree with. See, it cuts both ways. I'm quite entitled to criticise a company and their products, services and/or practices, regardless of whether I have the intention of buying them or not. The company isn't obligated to sell it, after all.

    The implication otherwise is that anyone who doesn't buy a given product in a free market isn't entitled to have an opinion on it. See that car model you know is lousy- and can explain why to your neighbour or other forum members who are thinking about buying one? You should shut up about that because it's a free market and they can design it lousy if they want and you don't have to buy it. Matter of fact, logically the implication applies equally to those who did buy it- since they didn't *have* to. The engine fell out of your brand new Chery QQ after 1500 miles? You weren't obligated to buy it, so you have no right to whine.

    In short, no, that's not how it works.

    (*) Yes, let's remember that MS themselves haven't actually done this yet- only that someone is speculating that they *might*.

  • Re:Lock Out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:05PM (#40386313) Homepage

    In other words, you're fine with a platform tyrant banning certain types of software and certain licenses simply because they can.

    The GPL came first. If the Apple store is incompatible with the GPL, then it is Apple that made it that way. It's not the fault of the FSF that some jerks 20 years later decided to be fascists.

    The fact that you're happy about the situation does you no credit.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:51PM (#40386961)
    As the example of Apple clearly shows, it's impossible for a closed platform company to reinvent itself and become a market leader in a new tech segment.
  • Re:Lock Out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jo_ham (604554) <joham999NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:56PM (#40387751)

    The app store is not incompatible with GPLv2 - there are several GPL apps on there, in fact. They even changed some of their terms and conditions to clarify the position in the wake of the VLC incident.

    It *is* incompatible with GPLv3, but this is due to the specific design of the v3 licence. In other words, it was written specifically to be incompatible with such app stores and Tivo-type devices. Hardly the "platform tyrant's" fault there.

    Apple did not "make it that way" - the FSF did, and they have their reasons for doing so. I can respect their position, even if I disagree with it.

    I also find it interesting that you consider a corporation to be "fascist" if it has a service that is incompatible with a software licence that you happen to like. Does that mean that those who maintain the Linux kernel are also fascists because they won't include closed source code into it? I mean, it's incompatible, right?

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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