A blog for the enterprise open source community
Do not confuse Microsoft IP with LinuxJay Lyman, July 16, 2009 @ 2:32 pm ET
Microsoft’s latest intellectual property (IP) licensing agreement is once again raising eyebrows among Linux and open source software fans, prompting some to wonder what Microsoft may be doing with regard to Linux and open source software. However, let us consider how possible, or perhaps even whether possible, it would be for Microsoft to bring licensing or litigation to or against another company, whether a vendor or user of enterprise IT, that did not in some way involve Linux and open source software. The latest Microsoft IP deal, while indeed cause for some concern, is also further evidence of how pervasive and entrenched Linux and open source software is in all of IT, from smartphones and consumer electronics to enterprise servers, HPC and virtualization, to key verticals and cloud computing.
Linux and open source played a small, if not insignificant role, in the recent TomTom case, which was settled, but continued to concern open source supporters. Still, that issue may become irrelevant since the advent of a workaround to Microsoft’s patented and dated File Allocation Table (FAT) technology. Furthermore, as we saw following the TomTom lawsuit and subsequent settlement with Microsoft, there has been no impact on Linux in the embedded devices space. If anything, momentum for Linux and open source continues to accelerate here considering devices such as Google Android and Palm Pre smartphones, Intel’s $884m bet with acquisition of Wind River and continued strength for embedded Linux players.
I must admit, I was not familiar with Melco Group or Buffalo NAS technology, the vendor and product involved in the latest Microsoft IP announcement, which admittedly does make several mentions of Linux. Still, I cover Linux and open source software pretty closely, and neither were on the radar. Is it truly accurate to consider Melco Group a ‘Linux vendor?’ To me the term connotes a vendor of the Linux OS, or perhaps even stretching to a specialty provider that relies or focuses heavily on Linux. Melco Group seems no more a Linux company than any hosting company, telecommunications company, set-top box manufacturer, satellite TV service operator, printer maker, navigational device manufacturer, server performance vendor, HPC clustering specialist or cloud computing player.
This indicates it would be folly for Microsoft to attack Linux or open source software. In doing so, it would shut itself out of virtually all of the key IT markets — smartphones, navigational devices, automotive industry application, healthcare, telecom and other verticals, servers, HPC, virtualization, cloud computing, etc.
I would never say that Linux and open source software vendors, or anyone else, should not be cautious, judicious and pragmatic when dealing with Microsoft. I continue to have my own skepticisms and concerns about the company. However, I think we need to consider the idea that Microsoft is more interested in monetizing its intellectual property by licensing than it is in harming or fighting open source. There will be times that its intellectual property crosses over with open source software projects and vendors, which have evolved and matured to the point they are present in all layers, sectors and corners of our industry. There will also be times when there are no connections to any Linux or open source software.
Microsoft’s legitimate support of Linux and other open source software continues to grow, and there are certainly rewards to running on Windows. Supporters of Linux and open source should be able to take the compliment, the validation and the opportunity without alarms going off every time an organization that touches Linux or open source is involved in IP licensing or litigation. After all, tell me, what enterprise organization doesn’t touch open source software in some way today? This is further validation that Linux and open source have arrived and are here to stay.
Comments (22) Categories: Software