Microsoft making the FLOSS News

What a day today has been for FLOSS news! The ‘net is buzzing with the article published in Fortune Magazine this morning which explains how Microsoft is claiming Linux and other Open Source software products violate no less than 235 of their patents and that they could claim royalties from distributors and users!

The news appears to be that Microsoft are not asking for anyone to cough-up – yet, but that this is a FUD or scaremongering tactic to get the corporate world to sign up to Microsoft’s version of FLOSS (using Novell’s SuSE linux in particular) or go back to good old Redmond code.

I’m not sure if this is going to hold much water to be honest. Reading many of the commentators today, there is a general consensus that this is a kind of “Custer’s Last Stand”…

The feeling is that Microsoft must be hurting and have no real alternative:

  • They are losing customers to Linux, and, Mozilla and others and are having a hard time trying to get them back by being nice.
  • They shout and throw their toys out of the pram, cry fowl-play, and by doing so upset lots of their current customers and lose even more to FLOSS.

Either way it is hard place to be right now. There are three main problems with Microsoft’s stance:

Firstly, although the patent infringement claims themselves may be real, it sounds like it will be very hard (if not impossible) to defend most of them (recent court rulings in the US have thrown doubt on the validity of many software patents).

Secondly, Microsoft could end up in a “patent war”… Of the few that may actually stand up to legal scrutiny, what’s to say that IBM, Oracle, SUN, Red Hat et al don’t have software patents themselves which Microsoft may well be infringing? The Open Invention Network (OIN), holds thousands of software patents on behalf of the open source community and believes that it is “highly likely” that Microsoft infringes on some of theirs.

And finally, the Open Source community has repeatedly asked Microsoft to detail which patents are being violated and how, and have said that any claims with substance will be dealt with. And the speed of development in the FLOSS world means many of the “fixes” would surely happen before the ink dried on any legal paperwork.

Although most watchers seem to be in little doubt that, at the end of day, Microsoft won’t end up getting much out of this – It will spread some FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) for a while, especially in the larger Enterprises where they could potentially have a lot to lose. Do some digging around on the ‘net and get your counter arguments straight. There are lots of links you can follow (if you’re quick) from our FLOSS News page at the open learning centre.

CNN have reprinted the original article which can be read here:

Tags: , ,

One Comment

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>