Fwd: Micro$oft: Lunatic Tendencies

Discussion in 'Computer Information' started by do, May 14, 2007.

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    do Guest

    The Guardian blogs - May 14, 2007

    Microsoft takes on the free world

    By Jack Schofield

    / Business/ Lunatic Tendencies/ Microsoft/ Open source

    Great headline (above) in Fortune magazine, where an article suggests that
    Microsoft is threatening a sort of patent Armageddon. The story says:

    Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez
    sat down with Fortune recently to map out their strategy for getting FOSS
    [free/open source software] users to pay royalties. Revealing the precise
    figure for the first time, they state that FOSS infringes on no fewer than
    235 Microsoft patents.

    Fortune compares the situation to MAD, the threat of "mutually assured
    destruction" during the cold war. As soon as one side uses nukes, everyone

    The warhead-rattling is probably Microsoft creating FUD (an IBM invention
    for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) to discourage risk-averse large companies
    from using Linux, or at least using a Microsoft-approved version from
    Novell. It doesn't really matter unless Microsoft lists the patents and
    launches some lawsuits.

    On the other hand, Microsoft's lawyers may have an exaggerated idea of the
    power of patents, given the billions that the company has recently had to
    pay out to patent trolls. Remember, lawyers aren't obliged to act
    sensibly, just legally. Since the US software patent system is an
    inherently bad idea, its patents are granted incompetently, and the court
    processes are farcical, it's pretty much a lottery. Microsoft's lawyers
    might be willing to try a few random bets to see if they win anything --
    though the PR damage would, I expect, far outweigh any cash gains. And
    it's not as though Microsoft needs the money.

    It will be interesting to see what IBM does, since it is even more heavily
    invested in owning the patent landscape than Microsoft, a latecomer to the
    game. IBM makes well over 90% of its income from proprietary systems, but
    it does talk up its support for open source. (As well as saving on
    programming costs, it is a great way of accumulating customers that can be
    upgraded from Linux to AIX, or to "hosted Linux" on proprietary
    mainframes.) However, IBM's patent-based strategy means it can't ship its
    own Linux distro, which would technically be easy enough to do.

    IBM has a stated strategy of collecting money for its intellectual
    property, and recently extracted a bundle of cash from Amazon. The IBM
    announcement says:

    Dan Cerutti, IBM's General Manager of Software Intellectual Property,
    said: "At IBM, we place a high value on our IP assets and believe this
    agreement substantiates the value of our portfolio. We're pleased this
    matter has been resolved through negotiation and licensing. We look
    forward to a more productive relationship with Amazon in the future."

    Given that its cash hoard makes it such an attractive target, Microsoft
    might well benefit from the destruction of the US software patent system,
    if that happened to be the outcome. (No, I don't think it's a
    Machiavellian plot.) It would certainly be better for Microsoft than it
    would for IBM.


    Seattle Post-Intelligencer - May 14, 2007

    Assessing Microsoft's open-source patent claims

    by Todd Bishop

    After suggesting previously that Linux violated its patents, Microsoft got
    more specific over the weekend, asserting in a Fortune magazine article
    that it and other open-source programs violate 235 of the company's
    patents. However, Microsoft is stopping short of saying that it will
    pursue claims against Linux users. And the company's specificity only goes
    so far. From the article:

    [Microsoft's Horacio] Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents
    or explain how they're being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing
    challenges to them.

    But he does break down the total number allegedly violated - 235 -
    into categories. He says that the Linux kernel - the deepest layer of the
    free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer
    hardware - violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user
    interfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars
    are set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of
    programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more.
    E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly
    transgress 68.

    As Mary Jo Foley notes, background material distributed to the media by
    Microsoft's public relations firm says that the company was motivated in
    part by proposed changes in the General Public License (GPL) that are
    intended to counter Microsoft's intellectual-property deal with Novell.
    Microsoft is discussing the patent issue even more directly now, with
    specifics about patent numbers and areas of infringement, in response to
    continued industry question and concern over the GPLv3's adoption.
    Unfortunately, for customers, the Free Software Foundation's efforts with
    GPLv3 while not harming existing contracts can harm the desired
    interoperability and open exchange that we have increasingly seen between
    proprietary and open source over the past several years.

    In response, some people are challenging Microsoft to get more specific.
    Writes Larry Augustin: "If Microsoft believes that Free and Open Source
    Software violates any of their patents, let them put those patents forward
    now, in the light of day, where we can all evaluate them on their merits.
    If not, then stop trying to bully customers into paying royalties to use
    Open Source. It's time for Microsoft to put up or shut up."

    And Groklaw, for one, isn't worried: "In short, I took it that the Novell
    deal isn't working out as well as they thought, and maybe customers aren't
    clamoring for those vouchers, and it is harder to find customers than they
    expected, and now GPLv3 ruined their dreams of wealth from that sort of a
    deal, so it's FUD time!"

    Dwight Davis, an industry analyst at Ovum Summit, said via phone this
    morning that this clearly marks "a major shift in how Microsoft is dealing
    with Linux."

    He said he doesn't see Microsoft going so far as to sue businesses that
    use Linux, many of whom are also its own customers. But the saber-rattling
    could cause big companies to look again at the software they use and
    calculate their potential exposure. And in the short run, it could be a
    boon for Novell, because of Microsoft's covenant under that deal to
    refrain from suing companies that use Novell's Suse Linux.

    "It's a risky strategy for Microsoft," Davis said. "It obviously has
    calculated that the down side it faces is severe enough that it's worth
    alienating a lot of open-source developers and a lot of customers who have
    embraced open source over the years."
    do, May 14, 2007
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