With all the flap about the Microsoft/Novell patent deal, one question
seems to be consistently avoided: just what could Linux be infringing upon?
For those too young to understand, Unix was here long before Microsoft,
so it certainly can't be anything fundamental. Linux, of course, came
later, but its Unix heritage is obvious: again, the basic OS can't
be infringing on Microsoft.
Drivers? Sure, but unlikely, because while the hardware manufacturer
may benefit from Microsoft, they also benefit from Linux and it
seems unlikely that they'd help Microsoft exclude a revenue stream. So
there might be some instances of that, but probably not many.
No, the main area of contention has to be interoperability: Samba, Mono,
reading Microsoft Office formats, anything in that area. That is plainly
the most fertile ground for Microsoft to sling its weight around. That's
the unspoken undercurrent - I think Microsoft probably avoids being
specific simply to cause more FUD, but this is where the problems
So what to do? The naive Linux folk who bluster "Show us the
infringement - we'll just rewrite the code!" ignore reality: you can't
necessarily get around a patent by changing your code. Patents
cover more than copyrights do, and can tie your hands much more
tightly. It's certainly possible that Microsoft has enforceable
patents in the interoperability area.
I'm wondering if we are near enough to the tipping point where
we could say "Fine. We'll drop all that. And when your customers
need interoperability, well, that's now YOUR problem: Mohammad no longer
will come crawling to the mountain, so you better get that puppy up
on jacks and start winching it over here!". In other words, stand tough
and make the interoperability their problem.
I don't know: Linux probably isn't quite there yet. But it's darn
close, isn't it?
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