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Thread: A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

  1. #1
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Post A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

    I don't know if everyone's been following this, but it all started on Sunday when Fortune Magazine online went live with a story in which Microsoft's counsel claimed that free and open-source software violates 235 of Microsoft's patents. What are they? Microsoft won't say.

    Thing is, you can't sue Linux, since it's a movement, rather than a corporation. And there are very good provisions in the GPL that protect Linux distributors, so Microsoft's only avenue would be to sue customers. And all you need to do is ask SCO and the RIAA how well that works.

    The FOSS community reacted with a mixture of rage, apathy and "bring it on." The best analysis I read was on Groklaw:

    Let Microsoft sue if it wishes. If there is one thing we've learned from the SCO saga, it's that FUD doesn't kill you, so long as you know better than to give in to it. I'm not saying that Microsoft isn't a serious problem if it chooses to be annoying, but the stakes are so high for Microsoft too that I took the article as an admission that it's all over for patent peace agreements, and from now on it's Microsoft going door-to-door, threatening to bust companies' knee caps if people don't pay up. That isn't really a longterm business plan for a company that cares about its brand, particularly not after the Supreme Court has so radically altered the patent world. Microsoft's real problem in the marketplace is that folks already hate the company's business tactics. Making folks hate them more doesn't sound so smart. Even those who pay up in fear will be looking for a way to get away from a company that acts like that, don't you think? No one respects a bully. And so I take the article as a test, to see what the reaction will be more than an immediate threat. So boo loudly, please, and maybe Microsoft will get hit by the Cluetrain.

    And it appears that the clue train did, in fact, strike Microsoft. This morning it issued a clarification saying, in essence, "we were just kidding about suing our customers!"

    Gutierrez said the comments were made not as a threat, but with the intention of highlighting an intellectual property issue affecting the entire computer industry. "It's important for everyone to understand that there is a real problem with Linux patents and that there is a need for a solution," he said.

    Interesting, no?

    P.S.: This issue is both legal and technical, so if the benevolent mods believe the thread should be in the Backroom, go ahead and move it.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

  2. #2

    Default Re: A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

    Basically their latest OS is not doing too well so they're just blowing off some steam. I can't see them being successful as they'd end up suing individuals, like you say, and the rubbish about the Linux kernel violating 42 of their patents is really clutching at straws.

  3. #3
    Amphibious Trebuchet Salesman Member Whacker's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

    Not to mention the current US patent system is horribly broken, and badly in need of a number of reforms. I wouldn't be surprised if lunix really DID violate that many, given what kind of garbage has been allowed to be patented.

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    Pinko Member _Martyr_'s Avatar
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    Default Re: A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

    I read somewhere that the concept of the loading bar is patented by someone. MS cant bring this to court because if it does the majority of those patents will be struck down. This is a major bluff to dirty Linux's name, classic MS FUD.
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  5. #5
    Needs more flowers Moderator drone's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

    Torvalds replies:
    http://www.informationweek.com/news/...leID=199600443
    Linus Torvalds, lead developer of the Linux kernel, has a sharp retort to Microsoft executives' statements in a Fortune magazine article that Linux and other open-source code violate 235 Microsoft patents.

    "It's certainly a lot more likely that Microsoft violates patents than Linux does," said Torvalds, holder of the Linux trademark. If the source code for Windows could be subjected to the same critical review that Linux has been, Microsoft would find itself in violation of patents held by other companies, said Torvalds.

    "Basic operating system theory was pretty much done by the end of the 1960s. IBM probably owned thousands of really 'fundamental' patents," Torvalds said in a response to questions submitted by InformationWeek. But he doesn't like any form of patent saber rattling. "The fundamental stuff was done about half a century ago and has long, long since lost any patent protection," he wrote.
    Maybe Dell selling PCs with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed got M$'s panties in a bunch.
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    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Strange 24 Hours for Microsoft and Linux

    Sun Microsystems responds:

    Free Advice for the Litigious ...

    Years back, Sun was under pressure in the market. Although many users loved our core Solaris operating system, others thought it was built for high end computers, not grid systems. Our computer business had failed to keep pace with the rest of the industry - which meant our volume systems looked expensive. In combination, and with a poor track record of supporting Solaris off of Sun hardware, we gave customers one choice - leave Sun. Many did. Those were the dark days.

    Where did they go? They went to GNU/Linux, a free and open source operating system built by a growing community, running on x86 systems. Why? Because the pair ("Linux on a whitebox") delivered, then, better grid performance, with more flexibility. We didn't erect barriers to exit, we promoted customer choice. Even when it cut the wrong way, as it did here. And yes, it hurt.

    With business down and customers leaving, we had more than a few choices at our disposal. We were invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of open source. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal. We were offered the choice to scuttle Solaris, and resell someone else's operating system. We declined. And we were encouraged to innovate by developers and customers who wanted Sun around, who saw the value we delivered through true systems engineering.

    So we took that advice. We started by securing the software assets we were building - so that we could convey them under trusted open source licenses to a community we'd just started nurturing. We redoubled our focus on innovation, in hardware and software, that would differentiate our offerings. Not just as good as the competition, but vastly better. We supported Linux on our SPARC systems, and forced ourselves to open up every business we operate - Solaris wasn't the hammer for all nails. Nor was SPARC. Nor Java.

    In essence, we decided to innovate, not litigate.

    Net result? Our contributions, from Java to OpenOffice to Gnome and Mozilla, now account for in excess of 25% of all lines of code within your average Linux distribution (yup, read that sentence again - or see the report, here, page 51). We joined forces with the likes of Google and IBM and Red Hat to drive the Open Document Format, accelerating document interchange. ODF is now accelerating globally, as the standard trusted by governments and academic institutions for multi-generational document interchange. It is an unstoppable force, no threat can kill a country's drive for independence or self-sufficiency (remember, the network's a social utility, too).

    Over the past two years, since committing to build a broad community around OpenSolaris, we've distributed nearly 8 million Solaris licenses, with nearly 70% on HP, Dell and IBM hardware (yes, we were surprised). And we've seen the OpenSolaris community burgeon to roughly 48,000 members, with only 2,000 or so working at Sun. (And I was with a leading company in the blogosphere today who told me they'd moved their core search systems to OpenSolaris - adoption feels like it's accelerating.)

    We've seen Java's acceptance made permanent, on servers and desktops and mobile phones and set tops, in no small part due to our decision to use the GPL license (to simplify the Linux/Java combination on consumer devices and industrial applications). And most importantly, we've seen our software business grow - as our revenue model migrated from up front licenses to a subscription model that put payment closer to the source of value (services rendered). Embracing free and open source led to more revenue, too.

    We invented our multicore Niagara UltraSPARC systems, massively powerful systems that redefine power efficiency for web-scale businesses - and we have a spectrum of design wins that recover and amplify the business we lost five years ago. Innovation and an embrace of the community (we GPL'd the core design of the chips) have led customers and collaborators to return in droves.

    So what's my view on this interview in Fortune - in which one of Sun's business partners claims the open source community is trampling their patent portfolio?

    You would be wise to listen to the customers you're threatening to sue - they can leave you, especially if you give them motivation. Remember, they wouldn't be motivated unless your products were somehow missing the mark.

    All of which is to say - no amount of fear can stop the rise of free media, or free software (they are the same, after all). The community is vastly more innovative and powerful than a single company. And you will never turn back the clock on elementary school students and developing economies and aid agencies and fledgling universities - or the Fortune 500 - that have found value in the wisdom of the open source community. Open standards and open source software are literally changing the face of the planet - creating opportunity wherever the network can reach.

    That's not a genie any litigator I know can put back in a bottle.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

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