Feeds

Microsoft talks open-source love amid TomTom Linux 'war'

Linux lovers brace for action

Top three mobile application threats

Microsoft has imagined a future where Windows relies on open source, just as community leaders tried to contain the fall out from what some believe could be the start of Microsoft's "war against Linux".

The company's server and tools president Bob Muglia has apparently told a technology conference he believes most of the company's products would use open-source "at some point."

Muglia was speaking at the Stanford Accel Symposium at Stanford University, California, and his comments were picked up by attendee John Newton, chief technology officer and chairman of Alfreso. "At some point almost all our product will have open source in it," Newton wrote in a Twitter flagged up by Alfreso fellow Matt Asay.

Microsoft products already contain code licensed under open source. Now it just wants more for Silverlight, Visual Studio 2010, and its Oslo modeling framework. Open source has been seen as a way for Microsoft to enrich and expand the reach of .NET.

But the timing of Muglia's words couldn't have come at a worse moment in Microsoft's long and troubled relationship with the open-source community.

He spoke just as Microsoft filed court papers in the US that accused TomTom of violating its intellectual property with that company's widely used voice-activated car navigation devices. Those devices run TomTom's own brand of GPL and LGPL'd Linux.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft's attempts to talk-down the broad threat to Linux have been dismissed, and it has fallen to representatives of the open-source community itself to call for calm, while also talking tough in the face of a potential Microsoft threat to Linux.

Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin and Software Freedom Law Center policy analyst Bradley Kuhn both separately moderated their concerns about the case by pointing out that this is a private dispute between Microsoft and TomTom on GPS mapping software.

Kuhn told The Reg people should press on with open-source projects, rather than obsess about what patents might or might not exist in Linux or stop their work on open-source projects through some concern over potential violations or that Microsoft might come knocking.

"Until...they are accused of infringing, there is no reason they should be worried," he said.

"I don’t believe what Microsoft says on this case that it’s not about free and open source software, but at this moment, I don’t see any evidence this patent reads on free and open source software. Patents get narrowed and invalidated during the patent litigation process all the time."

Zemlin blogged that people should calm down, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. To that end, the Linux Foundation said it's watching the situation and is ready to mount a defense of Linux should the need arise.

"The Linux ecosystem has enormously sophisticated resources available to assist in the defense of any claim that is made against Linux," Zemlin wrote.

"We do not feel assumptions should be made about the scope or facts of this case and its inclusion, if any, of Linux-related technology."

The claim that has people concerned involves TomTom's Linux using an implementation of FAT to add file system support for long and short file names, memory management for flash, and for connecting devices. The question is whether TomTom misused Microsoft's patented version of FAT32 and VFAT - which it's been licensing to third parties - or whether it employed a different implementation of FAT instead. FAT is commonly used in consumer devices, such as digital cameras, when connecting to PCs.

The TomTom picture is complicated by the fact it runs a mix of Linux and proprietary software. You can get Microsoft's filings here and here (both PDFs).

The case is ironic, given TomTom was actually found to be in violation of the GPL in October 2004 by the GPL Violations Project. TomTom subsequently agreed to make the modifications it made to Linux available online as part of the Linux Kernel.

TomTom US refused to comment on the case, but a spokesperson at its head-quarters on the Netherlands told Dow Jones TomTom would "vigorously defend" itself. ®

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.