Feeds

On Microsoft's feeble Fortune-based nastygram to Red Hat

Missing BillG's pen

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Patent Patsy

Microsoft cannot have anything more than a Red Hat jab in mind with the Fortune statements for a few simple reasons.

For one, there's SCO. We all know how well SCO's patent attack on IBM and Linux has played out. Would SCO Light be more threatening? (Certainly not, especially with the US government deciding to take a closer look at patents.)

Microsoft will need to reveal the specific patents in question before anyone begins to weigh the 235 figure with any seriousness.

And then there's the general ugliness of going after software such as OpenOffice. Microsoft, for example, signed a patent cross-licensing deal with OpenOffice shepherd Sun Microsystems in 2004. That deal covered "products and technologies" made by Sun. Microsoft could argue that OpenOffice is a "community" and not a product, but we're getting into serious hair-splitting. Beyond OpenOffice, Sun has contributed loads of code that has made its way into Linux - one EU estimate has Sun fronting close to 25 per cent of the work that goes into Debian.

Despite Sun and Microsoft's pleasant, recent relations, Sun does not appear pleased with Microsoft's legal grumblings.

"Fighting free software is like fighting gravity - that's why the Open Document Format (ODF) is being embraced beyond Sun, by Google, IBM, as well as governments and academic institutions across the globe," Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz told us today. "In an open market, innovation seems like a more sensible strategy than litigation."

In addition, we find Microsoft cuddling up quite closely to Linux these days. The Novell pact makes Microsoft a Linux vendor of sorts. So too does Microsoft's agreement to support Linux running on its Virtual Server software and related deal with open source software maker XenSource.

Pointing out these bits and pieces, however, misses the most obvious problem Microsoft faces. Close partners such as IBM and HP - companies with more than ample patent portfolios - would not sit idly by as Microsoft tried to derail their lucrative Linux server businesses.

To hear Ballmer warning the open sourcers that they must "play by the same rules as the rest of the business. What's fair is fair" is the obvious reminder that Microsoft does not take this latest Linux cancer kerfuffle seriously. Convicted monopolists struggling to deal with their billions can't say such things with a straight face. Microsoft just wanted to send a note to Red Hat and thought Fortune an effective medium. ®

Bootnote

For the record, we asked Sun, Microsoft, Dell and Red Hat for comment on this story.

Sun put us in contact with CEO Schwartz and pointed to blog entries from its CTO and some guy named Tim Bray.

Microsoft proved trickier. We asked specifically how its deal with Sun would affect the OpenOffice legal challenge. Via its public relations forcefield, Microsoft replied, "Even the founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, noted last year that Linux infringes well over 200 patents from multiple companies. The real question is not whether there exist substantial patent infringement issues, but what to do about them. Microsoft and Novell already developed a solution that meets the needs of customers, furthers interoperability, and advances the interests of the industry as a whole. Any customer that is concerned about Linux IP issues needs only to obtain their open source subscriptions from Novell."

You'll notice that "Sun Microsystems" and "OpenOffice" were absent from that comment.

Dell declined to comment, while Red Hat pointed us here.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future
Or why the reversal of globalisation ain't gonna 'appen
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
Microsoft and Dell’s cloud in a box: Instant Azure for the data centre
A less painful way to run Microsoft’s private cloud
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
CAGE MATCH: Microsoft, Dell open co-located bit barns in Oz
Whole new species of XaaS spawning in the antipodes
AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC
Support for PCoIP protocol means zero clients can run cloudy desktops
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.