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Why Again is the Novell/Microsoft Deal So Darn Ugly?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, GPL, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Oracle, Patent Covenant, Patents, Red Hat, Steve Ballmer, Windows at 2:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Ballmer license

Image from Wikimedia

Matt Asay has just weighed in on this debate that was mentioned here before. It’s centered around the mixing of Free software and software patents. His post is long, he has many insightful things to share rant about and here is just a fragment.

Dual-licensing with patents: It’s bound to happen


The problem with this sort of distinction (which we and virtually every open-source company of which I’m familiar espouses, in terms of a “community” and “professional” version) is how easily patent protection could creep into the one but not the other. When the open-source world starts selling the same FUD that the proprietary world does we have lost.

I care far less about hybrid models that depend on a mixture of proprietary extensions and an open-source core, as MySQL is contemplating, than I do about hybrid models that are a blend of “open source and very risky!” and “proprietary and oh so safe!”. If we slip into this sort of a model, open source loses its potency. It loses its character. It loses its integrity.

The downstreaming problem which he speaks of is represented by Novell's Moonlight. Novell already steps further than this, e.g. by separating Mono into 'chunks' depending on Microsoft’s R(seanable)AND, which is only as unreasonable as it wants and needs it to be. If you wish to witness Microsoft’s mis-comprehension of ‘open source’ (or “open minus source”, i.e. open-source), then take a look at Ozzie’s remarks which we intentionally only alluded to earlier but never took seriously. The ‘news’ was so insignificant that it was hardly comment-worthy. Microsoft is still all “patents, patents, patents!”

The concessions Microsoft makes are merely a case of public image — saving face on the face of it. If you need another more contemporary glimpse at Microsoft’s attitude, get a load of this latest analysis from the 451 Group.

There was general agreement that large IT vendors, including software giants such as Google, Oracle and even Microsoft, all see a need for involvement in open source. What also emerged as a common theme during our panel was that no big vendor could afford not to be in open source in some way or another. Basically, it’s been competitive necessity and cost effectiveness that has led vendors to open source, and this helps explain why we see open source all over the place. There was also a recognition that we were not talking about what vendors might be doing or when they might be making moves around open source. We were talking about the things these vendors are doing today and where they are looking next to push the ideas and advantages of open source further.

As you know, Google and Oracle just adore Free software. Yes, they love using it. They love receiving updates. They love the fact that Red Hat builds a platform for them and in the case of Oracle, lots of support money can be extracted at the developers’ expense. What’s not to love when you’re a freeloader?

“Microsoft’s legacy assets (secret code) become increasingly redundant as equivalent and often superior Free software is made available…”As for Microsoft, it wishes to believe that open source as a whole will become yet another Windows ISV that brings profits to Microsoft. In many other cases, it’s a tad unfortunate to find how they turned Free software into just visibility of source code as a marketing distinguisher if not a self-serving ploy.

Microsoft’s legacy assets (secret code) become increasingly redundant as equivalent and often superior Free software is made available for download, use, and redistribution. Microsoft knows all of this. What can it brag about? Probably just piles of papers, fueled by the very same laws it aggressively lobbies for. It shapes market rules to suppress emerging threats, to hinder natural progression, sometimes perceived as “disruption”. In response, we, as Free software supporters, must protest to keep the law in tact or restore it to a state of sanity. Digital slavery and a modern-age feudal system is good for nobody.

Oh look! The press is buzzing about another Microsoft intellectual monopoly. Watch carefully what you do with your hands now.

Right and left mouse buttons are placed on the side in a thumb-accessible position, and the design is unobtrusive enough to allow for easy typing when it’s on. We’d love to get a hand-on with the mouse if it ever comes out. It looks great and the ability to surf the internet without keeping our hand close to the computer is very conducive to our leisure time activities.

The gist of it all: a combination of prior art fitted onto A4-sized white paper sheets. Can’t have too many of these though! Word on the street is that Microsoft has run out of paper, so it can’t let Linux know what it’s allegedly infringing on.

“Most people who are familiar with patents know it’s not standard operating procedure to list the patents… The response of that would be administratively impossible to keep up with.”

Jim Markwith, Microsoft patents attorney
(after saber-rattling against Linux)

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