Microsoft vs. Open Source: What's 235 Patents Among Friends?: Page 3

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Sowing Confusion

Weiss says that what Microsoft really wants, rather than royalties, is to get large Linux users to buy into the agreement that Microsoft has with Novell, and to purchase SUSE Linux rather than any other Linux.

“It’s a step by step process of fighting Stallman, intimidating the market, and trying to create a flow of momentum toward Novell SUSE,” he says.

“It’s not necessarily that Novell has to be the winner, but if Novell gets bigger and more powerful, then they hope that Red Hat will maybe come into line. Or, if they don’t come into line, then the market gets more fragmented between multiple Linux distributions, and maybe the users will find that it’s better to go with a homogeneous approach like Microsoft’s.”

“Microsoft is saying, ‘We will protect you if you go with SUSE,’” a stance that could conceivably cause some migration away from Red Hat, he says. “Then Red Hat stock plummets, and Novell becomes more of an important distributor. There’s confusion in the market, migration going on from one distribution to another, and Microsoft sits on the sidelines watching the jousting.”

Gladiators in the Ring

Certainly the open source community has defensive measures in progress. Among other tactics, the Open Invention Network is gathering a portfolio of patents. Some observers suggest that, if Microsoft were to litigate, the OIN would reply by taking legal action against Windows based on this accumulated IP. “It’s a counter attack portfolio,” Weiss says.

At the end of the day, Microsoft’s motivation is partially saber rattling, Gillen says. The company wants to protect its brand from encroachments by Linux and other open source software. “They’re creating a certain amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

“It’s about protecting against the lost revenue they would experience if Linux damages their position in the market,” he says. “That’s really what it’s about.”

Notes Weiss: “So we have a multiple number of scenarios there, and it’s really like two gladiators in the arena – or multiple gladiators, feeling each other out, stomping around the ring, and making some noises and threats. But nobody’s thrusting yet.” So far, “They’re positioning.”

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