As part of a small personal project, I've been reading through the court exhibits presented in Comes V Microsoft. One of those exhibits is a chain of internal Microsoft emails discussing how to get Windows XP on the OLPC. In these mails, there is a "recap" (and some later email discussion) of a meeting between Orlando Ayala, Craig Fiebig, and Tom Phillips from Microsoft with Rodrigo Arboleda of OLPCA and Marcelo Calure of Brightstar.
I am Jason Melton and I'd like to point out several things we learn in the recap:
- Microsoft was already working directly with Hector Ruiz, the Executive Chairman of AMD to get XP on OLPC, and specifically planned on enlisting AMD to "shift Nick into a more realistic state on the Open Source philosophy."
- The entire purpose of the meeting is to help get XP on the OLPC. It is not a negotiation and there is no one representing the OLPC Project's interests - in fact, Marcelo Calure is extremely candid with the Microsoft representatives, revealing financial information about the OLPC project, board member's leanings, status of project engineering, personal insights on Nick's psychology, and much more valuable information. It's important to note that at the time of this meeting, Microsoft was not in any way a partner to OLPC - internally Microsoft figures it has about a 20%-25% chance of being accepted, and as is shown in the accompanying email discussion, already has a plan to compete directly with the OLPC if the proposal is rejected.
- Marcelo and Rodrigo further give specifics on how Microsoft should present its proposal, make sure Microsoft gets it to all the board members - presumably because they now know the board members that are likely to support it - and also further agree to review it. So, not only is this not a one-off meeting, but part of a continuing effort to assist Microsoft. (We also see in the email discussion that Microsoft has another meeting with AMD coming up.)
- We also see what I personally consider one of the saddest things about the meeting: Marcelo and Rodrigo agreeing that Nick needs acknowledgement from Bill Gates - the impact of this would be "very significant". To address this, Microsoft plans to draft up an email for Gates to send - my man can't even get a real email. The cold identification and exploitation of a human weakness seems especially brutal to me.
- There also a little suggestion of the old quid pro quo, where a contribution of $10MM-$30MM to the MIT Media Lab might not cause offense.
After the re-cap there is some email discussion which is also illuminating. We see that Microsoft already has a back-up plan to compete with the OLPC:
"Remember that a key part of our strategy is to create a situation where even if Nick rejects us for philosophical reasons there is a long as visible history of our attempts to work with them and then we have to ask to get a license for the "open source hardware" and we will make our own offering on the commercial side."
The duplicity of Microsoft trying to create a "long and visible" record that directly contrasts the actual dealings may or may not come as a surprise to the gentle reader.
The quid pro quo is handled a bit more subtly inside Microsoft - naturally, as they're quite practiced - and we learn that Microsoft Research already intends to reduce MIT Media Lab funding, but has not done so specifically because they don't want to "disrupt the negotiations".
Finally, in case you think I've failed to mention it: there is never any talk of "the best technology" or "educating or empowering children" or "customers/governments want Windows" or any such merit-based discussion. Outside of a brief mention of Academic Software offerings - literally the very last thing in the recap and suggested by the OLPC faction - the entire discussion revolves around what benefits Microsoft, what might hurt Google, and exploiting inside information they have on the OLPC project and OLPC people.
"Of the Microsoft arrangement, Mr. Negroponte said: 'We've stayed very pure."
New York Times, May 16. 2008
Ah, it's nice to think so, isn't it, Nick?