What do you think of Microsoft going after Open-Source?

Microsoft claims that free software like Linux, which runs a big chunk of corporate America, violates 235 of its patents. It wants royalties from distributors and users.

Is this just the tactic of an aging company facing unfavorable market trends and stiff competition from likes of Google. Or does Microsoft have a point, is open source so good because it steals from their patents, and entitled to royalties?

John Rankin

Recruiter and Project Manager at Didit

This is just my opinion, so Microsoft lawyers need not read it.

The assumption seems to be that Microsoft intends to win some legal battle against Open-Source. I content that this has nothing to do with winning a case and everything to do with seeding FUD. There are three things that I see being accomplished here: 1) Microsoft is coercing companies into inking settlements that set a nasty precedent for future Open-source development. 2) FUD has now been created around using Open-source products [most notably in a business environment where you might get sued] and 3) FUD has been created around developing open-source projects or using open-source in any sort of commercial setting.

I suspect that the majority of these “infringements” won’t stand up just because of the “prior art” argument. Seriously, how can MS claim that the Linux kernel infringes 42 patents when the concept predates Microsoft by 10 years and Windows by 20. I won’t even get into the interface infringements (cough…Xerox, Mac, Desqview, GEM, Amiga Workbench..). Nobody is going to know if there’s any merit to the claims unless they go public with the specifics. And it’s very unlikely that they’re ever going to do that. They’re going to selectively go after individual companies in private settlements and let everyone else huddle in fear of being next on the list.

Regardless of whether or not Microsoft ever wins a court case, the damage is done. CIOs and IT line managers will have to contend with the bad reputation and the underlying fear that Microsoft has now created around open-source. With every settlement that gets inked with Microsoft, that FUD is going to gain credibility and open-source will backslide further.

I have to hand it to Microsoft. It’s an incredibly smart (and very Machiavellian) business move. The vast majority of the people that they piss off with this move *aren’t* the business decision makers. So they aren’t really putting their corporate base at much risk. As for the informed consumers that realize what a joke this is, well…as long as Microsoft rules in the corporate world, we’re going to keep running it in our homes, schools and governments. And if MS succeeds in scaring away enough of the Linux developers, we won’t even have that as an option for dissent.