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Complacency and bravado

Referencing: The Patent Threat to Linux

There have been long threads in comp.os.linux.misc about the Linux patent threat issue.

Two common themes I see there are complacency and bravado: there's a "we have nothing to worry about" attitude mixed with a strong sense of "you can't hurt us because we're too tough!". I see the same attitudes at Groklaw.

At one level, I do think that the threats are more FUD than reality. if you are going to pull your gun, pull it, don't tell me how many bullets are in the clip. If any of these patents were really strong, someone would be asserting their rights. And there is our big buddy IBM who would likely step in to counter threaten anyone who went after Linux.

But: one thing not to forget is that IBM and other Linux friends don't see Linux in the same way most of us here do. For us, there is a large political component: we believe in open source as the right thing to do. IBM believes in making money. If Linux helps it fight Microsoft right now, then Linux is the favored son. But that can change, and IBM and the others can become just as much an enemy as Microsoft.

It's just money: I was reading this morning that HP is still quite cozy with SCO - because SCO makes them money. When that stops, HP will drop them - though even now the flow of cold cash can't be entirely cooling the burning of that particular hot potato.

So I don't think Linux should be entirely complacent about this. The bravado is another thing that disturbs me. Bravado is indicative of immaturity: only the young think they are invincible. Microsoft is not going to just roll over and die: they will fight tooth and nail, fair or foul. The most dangerous thing you can do is underestimate your opponents strength, and I see a lot of that in the Linux community. Comments like "Microsoft loses all its lawsuits" are just foolish.

Back when George Bush was ramping us up for the Iraq war, I happened to talk to a young man who had just joined the Army. He had the typical confidence of the young: "We're going in there and kick their butts; I'll be back here by September". That's the same kind of attitude I see toward Microsoft.

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"He had the typical confidence of the young: 'We're going in there and kick their butts; I'll be back here by September'."

Did he? And, was he?


---August 8, 2004

I have no idea. I've never seen him again. I hope he wasn't killed. I think regardless of anything else, he certainly wasn't back by September.


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