Those pesky pirates! With Tomato Garden XP allegedly deployed to over 10 million users in China, one has to ask the question, isn't that what Microsoft wanted?

and a look at a new distro which aims to appeal to the Windows XP market with consideration of a recent ruling that has an XP “pirate” hit with a fine and jail.

Its a question Ive asked time and time again on this blog.  There are many sites reporting the new Ubuntu derived distro which aims to appeal to the Windows XP user.  I will cover that more towards the end of the article but for me,  this poses other questions in regards to the view Microsoft seemed to have in respect of XP, the future of Microsoft with it’s recent products and the question – what is Microsoft most frightened of?

Lets rewind to August 2008 when the people responsible for China’s most popular “cracked” version of Windows XP were arrested….

For those that don’t know, the version of XP in question was called Tomato Garden Windows XP and contained other full versions of software (cracked if you will) which could be downloaded for free.  And downloaded it was.  Reports state that approximately 10 million people took the opportunity to get their hands on this unofficial, unauthorised Microsoft product.

Skip nearer to present day and on August 20th 2009 a judgment was reached by the Suzhou Huqiu District Court which saw the maker of Tomato Garden XP hit with a $147,000 fine and a three and a half year term of imprisonment.

Before we look at this further, let’s remind ourselves of what Bill Gates had to say about “piracy” in China.  The following quote comes from Bill Gates in 2007, you can read an article on that here.

Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though……And as long as they’re going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.

It appears he has been true to his word.  Its nearly 2010, 10 million people are seemingly “addicted” to Tomato Garden and sure enough Microsoft seems to be collecting.   Whilst I cannot and will not condone the “sharing” of material without the IP holders consent, does anyone see anything wrong with the way Microsoft have apparently been happy to let people “become addicted”?  Microsoft cannot be holier than thou (IMO) in regards to “theft” of code since its alleged that (albeit by a 3rd party contracted by Microsoft) they have done the same thing and it seemed a year before Bill Gates was more than happy for people to “steal ours” (his words).  Is this not at best entrapment?

I think we are all agreed you can’t “steal” code in the traditional sense, but for want of a better word, lets look for a minute at theft as defined in Section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 (UK Law)

A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.

So by listening to Bill Gates in 2007, one could be forgiven for thinking that the “dishonest appropriation” element is absent from the “stealing” afterall Bill Gates said “we want them to steal ours” ergo no dishonesty, Bill Gates want’s you to steal it.  Taking this to a rather OTT extreme, one could also consider that the creator of Tomato Garden had a defense (of sorts) there.  This is, as I say, OTT, but for me highlights the hypocrisy of Microsoft.

Of course all this to me is really a moot point when you consider that Microsoft have already given XP a stay of execution and even in light of the fact its two versions behind the current product, people still want to keep using it.  Is this what Microsoft is most frightened of? People’s reluctance to move to what MS is offering today?  Maybe for many Windows users it’s nice to run an MS OS where your hardware exceeds the requirements of the OS itself and not find themselves in the middle of a performance battle which traditionally (IMO) was a combination of compromise and hardware upgrade.

It looks like XP but its derived from Ubuntu. I don't think Microsoft will be best pleased with a Gnome? replica of their GUI.

Here comes Ylmf OS!

With a name that rolls off the tongue? 😉 Ylmf OS appears to the casual user as XP.  Currently the Ubuntu based distro has no English translation.  What does this mean for Microsoft?  Well if it becomes the “protest choice” of China then quite alot, its got a 10 million strong user base to attract.  You can visit the website of this distro here and I would ask if anyone knows of either a translation for the distro itself and/or the homepage, please let me know!

A threat to Microsoft?

I have a some questions in regards to XP, firstly why on the eve of the Windows 7 beta did the arrests occur of the Tomato Garden creator?  Why when XP is such old software (two versions behind 7 which Microsoft seem to tout as the second coming of operating systems) did Microsoft want to actively persue this XP clone?  What does Windows 7 offer which is not already offered by a smaller (and less hardware demanding XP) but most important of all, if people are being pursued now for products as old as XP, what does that say about Microsoft’s latest products and their confidence in them?

These are questions which only XP users reluctant to upgrade can answer.  In the meantime, I don’t think it will be long before a translation of Ylmf is available and you can bet Microsoft will be looking very closely at its options in regards to the GUI having an almost identical look to XP, even if it is Ubuntu derived.

If I had not “upgraded” to Vista from XP, I would probably not be writing a Linux blog.  It was my utter dissatisfaction with Vista that caused me to look elsewhere, which now in hindsight was the best thing I ever did.  As I come to the end of a long testing/review of Windows 7, I am left none the wiser as to what Windows can now offer me (that review will be here in the new year)

Maybe 2010 will be the year of the Linux desktop? Starting in China albeit with a clone of XP? – The mind boggles!  What a wacky digital world we live in!

Goblin –