Launchpad and Microsoft
In the news this week were two notable stories involving companies contributing to open source:
Apart from this one essential element, these stories could hardly be more different. Canonical and Microsoft are dramatically different companies, making distinctly different types of contributions, for very different reasons. There’s not much to compare. Or is there?
Novell’s Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon has taken the opportunity to compare Canonical with Novell partner Microsoft on his blog. As he “commend[s] Microsoft for taking this very significant step”, he points out that the 20,000 lines of source code contributed by Microsoft to the Linux kernel “will far surpass those contributed by Canoncial[sic]”.
John credits Novell colleague Greg Kroah-Hartman for helping Microsoft to achieve this historic milestone. Greg is fond of counting lines of code in the Linux kernel, and based on his commentary elsewhere, I’m sure it was his pleasure to provide this statistic. I haven’t checked the figures myself, but it’s certainly believable that our contributions to the Linux kernel haven’t amounted to 20,000 lines of code.
Before we congratulate Microsoft and Novell too heartily, though, let’s get beyond the numbers, and look at what those 20,000 lines of code actually do. What can Linux do now that it couldn’t do before Microsoft’s contribution? According to Microsoft’s press release, it’s a device driver which enables Linux to run much faster—on Windows servers. That’s right, it helps us to get more value out of our expensive Windows Server 2008 licenses by consolidating our Linux servers into Windows Hyper-V virtual machines. It lets us put Windows in control of our hardware, and rely on Microsoft to allow it to perform well, for as long as that makes sense for them strategically.
Launchpad, on the other hand, is a hosting platform designed to accelerate free software development. Any free software developer in the world can use it, for free, to manage their source code, bug reports, packages, translations, and more. Canonical was founded to advance the state of the art in free software, and Launchpad and Ubuntu both represent massive investments in that effort. Now that Launchpad is open source, developers can contribute to it, and those contributions benefit other open source developers by making the Launchpad service better.
Microsoft’s contribution to Linux creates new business opportunities for Microsoft by locking customers into their technology. Canonical’s contribution of Launchpad helps free software developers do what they do best, and benefits Canonical by making it easier for us to package, distribute, maintain, and provide services for free software.
Oh, and if we want to compare numbers, Launchpad is well over 200,000 lines of Python code, or more than 10 times larger than Microsoft’s contribution to Linux (in C).