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Microsoft Denies Nigerian Linux Scam

Microsoft is a tremendous competitor in every market in the world. And according to a letter written by Mandriva Linux CEO Francois Bancilhon, it's so bent on winning that it undercut a deal between the Nigerian government and the Linux vendor.

The letter details circumstances that might raise some ethical questions about Microsoft's competitive practices. It alleges that the Nigerian government has modified a deal it had with Mandriva for 17,000 PCs using the Intel Classmate PC running on Mandriva Linux to instead run Microsoft Windows.

"I would not say it got dirty, but someone could have said that," Bancilhon wrote in his letter to Ballmer. "Your team fought and fought again the deal, but still the customer was happy with the CMPC (Classmates PC) and Mandriva."

Microsoft denies any wrongdoing in the affair.

"Microsoft has a strong relationship with the government in Nigeria and will continue to partner with government and industry to help meet their needs," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement sent to InternetNews.com. "Microsoft operates its business in accordance both with the laws of the countries in which it operates and with international law."

Bancilhon goes on to note that Mandriva actually closed the deal and that the machines are in the process of being delivered. That being the case, the Nigerians have told Bancilhon that, though they will pay for the Mandriva Linux software, they plan on replacing it with Windows.

"Wow! I'm impressed, Steve! What have you done to these guys to make them change their mind like this? It's quite clear to me, and it will be to everyone," Bancilhon wrote. "How do you call what you just did Steve? There is various names for it, I'm sure you know them."

From Microsoft's perspective it's a matter of choice. In the statement sent to InternetNews.com, Microsoft said it believes individuals, governments and other organizations should be free to choose the software and other technologies that best meet their needs.

"We are seeing strong market demand for Windows on low-cost devices to help governments in the areas of education, local innovation, and jobs and opportunity," the Microsoft spokesperson said in the statement.

Mandriva and Microsoft are not particularly friendly competitors. Mandriva has not bought into the Microsoft Linux patent protection program that Novell, Xandros, Linspire and TurboLinux have already signed up for.

But Mandriva isn't exactly the most beloved of Linux vendors, either.

In 2006, the company unceremoniously fired its founder, Gael Duval.

Mandriva has also had its share of financial problems. In 2003 the company filed for bankruptcy protection, which it emerged from in 2004. At the time of its bankruptcy, Mandriva was known as Mandrakesoft.

Mandriva was created in 2005 after MandrakeSoft acquired Conectiva Linux for $2.3 million.