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TomTom Linux impact light hit so farJay Lyman, March 12, 2009 @ 2:04 pm ET
I’ve been talking to device manufacturers and the Linux-centered software providers that feed them code for mobile phones, TV set-top boxes, industrial control, automotive technology, medical devices, military uses and a slew of other categories commonly classified as embedded devices, and I can definitively report that I am not hearing or sensing any fear, uncertainty or doubt (FUD) as a result of Microsoft’s TomTom patent suit.
I wrote last month that the controversial MS TomTom suit was not aimed at Linux as much as TomTom and some market categories for Microsoft. While we must all remind ourselves that anything may be possible considering court rulings and Microsoft strategies, I don’t see Microsoft’s TomTom suit as truly aimed at Linux. If it is, I don’t see it having much, if any, impact on Linux. Many bloggers and posters are indicating that this suit is Microsoft’s effort to address the traction of embedded Linux, but I’m not seeing any signs of impact. In fact, the suit may end up driving embedded Linux forward and growing adoption even more if we look to the past.
I still have my suspicions and concerns (i.e. the netbook market) about Microsoft, but I believe previous challenges to the IP of the Linux kernel — both in the courtroom and the public arena — indicate the open source operating system is sound in both body and spirit. I am reminded of a poignant statement from former OSDL executive director Stuart Cohen (who now heads enterprise collaboration play CSI. As the SCO case against IBM and Linux and the world was in its seventh death stage, Cohen argued SCO’s case and allegations over Linux did more to bolster the enterprise credibility and acceptability of Linux than anything else.
I don’t necessarily see the same effect from the TomTom suit since, at least publicly, Microsoft is not making the case that it is Linux on the line. I can report that there does not seem to be any slowdown or hesitation in the embrace of Linux for embedded devices. Perhaps that is the reason that Microsoft has chosen to play down any implications for Linux and open source, rather than puff them up as it has done in the past. If Microsoft or anyone else challenges the IP integrity of the Linux OS, it is likely to reinforce the idea that the open source software is legitimate, licensed, covered by copyright, and absolutely appropriate for enterprise, embedded and other commercial uses, at least that’s what history tells us.
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