At http://www.no-lobbyists-as-such.com/florian-mueller-blog/ballmer-linux/ we're reminded that Microsoft wants Linux dead. Ballmer
is once again making noise about patents.
Unfortunately, Microsoft likely does have patents it could use
against Linux. IBM can probably be replied upon to fight back
on the side of Linux
with its own patents - supposedly they've called Microsoft patent
bluffs in the past just by pointing out that they also have stacks
of patents and idle lawyers ready to look for violations by
Windows code. However, Microsoft might now be willing
to risk the battle.
Microsoft is not in a happy place right now. Vista is delayed,
and both Apple and Linux are gnawing at its toes. The increasing
interest in virtualization and particularly in package/OS
bundling like VMware Player is a bumpy road for Microsoft because of OS licensing. Microsoft
doesn't want its OS sales pirated, but it doesn't want to miss out
on that market either. Linux apps can be shipped with a free OS;
Microsoft apps cannot.
If Microsoft could control the VM machine itself, they could
much more easily deal with the OS licensing problem. However,
their product hasn't competed well against VMware and a promised
upgrade has been delayed yet again.
Microsoft's last patent skirmish over FAT filesystems didn't end well
for them, at least for now. But money talks, as we all know, and
Microsoft can talk a lot more loudly than most of us. The FAT
patent actually illustrates why Microsoft may be able to do real
damage to Linux: a lot of what makes Linux viable as an alternative
OS is its ability to interoperate with Microsoft products and other
devices that follow Micrsoft standards. When you seek compatability
and familarity, you are bound to brush the line.
Some say this is all just empty threats, and they could be right. But
people don't usually make threats unless they feel some need to
do so. Microsoft is threatened by Linux, and could carry through with
patent atacks. Just because its been all noise in the past doesn't
mean they'll never play this hand.
Or they might do something else entirely. A feint with patents
could be a deliberate distraction to cover their real intent.
Whatever Ballmer means or doesn't mean, it's unlikely that
Microsoft is going to stand idly and watch Linux siphon away
important business. We of course hope that they remain impotent
or distracted until it is too late.
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