Monday, May 14, 2007

More FUD for today.

Why do I say that as an avid technologist, I encounter FUD very often? Here's why! According to this article with FORTUNE, Microsoft claims that Linux infringes on 235 of it's software patents. It casts the shadow of whether or not Linux can stay truly free if Microsoft can control it via the patents. Microsoft is threatening to sue in order to beat Linux into submission. It is this constant threat of force that is keeping a lot of companies from switching as they do not want to be caught in the battle.

Microsoft has to do this because it is hurting badly. This is the kind of tactic someone reverts to when they're in their death throes. They claim to have identified the exact patents violated by exact pieces of software. Quoting the CNN article:

"He says that the Linux kernel - the deepest layer of the free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer hardware - violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user interfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly transgress 68."
I sincerely hope that Microsoft does sue. It would be game over for them once they do that. They know it, we know it. The only people who don't know it are the blur normal computer users out there, who will be ultimately affected. PJ goes into details on why they would surely lose. Simply put, Microsoft would have to end up suing their own customers and governments, who're by far the largest users of Open Source Software (OSS). As they have already learnt from their proxy, SCO, that is a bad and stupid strategy to pursue.

If they do decide to sue, then, they would unleash patent armageddon onto the technology world. Major OSS supporters such as IBM, Sony, RedHat, NEC and Philips will have to unleash their patents onto Microsoft as well. Some of these companies have more software patents than Microsoft has. Indeed, one of these companies actually invented much of the technology driving PCs single-handedly [No marks for guessing which one! - Ed]. Mutually assured destruction (MAD), just like the days of the cold war. Hence, just like the cold war, there will be a lot of talk on both sides, but there will be very little open action.

Where the world of FOSS is a world of freedoms, openness and democracy, Microsoft's world of proprietary software is a world of secrecy and centralised control. So, it's fairly obvious who would ultimately win in such a cold war. Microsoft is caught between a rock and a hard place. If they sue, they lose. If they don't sue, they lose. Ultimately, it's only a matter of time before it's game over for them unless they change their ways. Technically, the only thing that's stopping Microsoft from selling MS-Linux is pride. To do that would be to admit that they were wrong and Microsoft isn't great enough to do that.

Here's to you Microsoft: BOO!

PS. I love the picture that they chose of Richard Stallman. He looks like a prophet, not quite as business-like as Steve Ballmer.

UPDATE@2150: Found this video on YouTube.

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