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FSF aims for partnership with hardware manufacturers

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Mar 01, 2007 03:44 PM

Boston, MA—March 1, 2007—The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released a paper entitled, “The road to hardware free from restrictions”, detailing ways major hardware manufacturers with power in the market can work with the free software community to establish a “mutually beneficial relationship.”

The paper recommends manufacturers take action in five areas: supporting free software drivers, ending the “Microsoft Tax”, removing proprietary BIOS locks, supporting a free BIOS, and rejecting Digital Restrictions Management.

Peter Brown, FSF executive director, said, “With the growing utilization of free software and the rejection of Microsoft's Vista, large vendors like HP, Dell, Lenovo and Sun have the opportunity and responsibility to acknowledge the market for hardware suitable for free software users—hardware that meets ethical requirements for user freedom, privacy and security. We hope that this paper will focus attention on what needs to get done in the coming months.”

A draft of the paper was first sent on January 10, 2007 to HP and Sun Microsystems for their comment. Since then, several related developments have demonstrated that the ideas in “The road to hardware free from restrictions” are widely held within the technology community.

Kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman's open offer to all manufacturers for free Linux kernel driver development has generated a sizable response. Dell's recent solicitation of customer feedback was met primarily with proposals to make all Dell machines optionally available without Microsoft Windows, replacing it with either no operating system or with a choice of GNU/Linux distributions. Suggestions for Dell to support coreboot and to build their laptops with hardware fully supported by free software drivers were also popular choices.

In the paper, the Free Software Foundation expresses its eagerness to build on this momentum by assisting hardware vendors interested in making the recommended changes, and it encourages vendors to take a fresh look at this largely unexplored opportunity.

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software—particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants—and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Their web site, located at, is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support their work can be made at They are headquartered in Boston, MA, USA.

Press Contact: For more information about this announcement or to schedule an interview, please contact Peter Brown or John Sullivan at +1-617-542-5942 or

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