The below-linked article is probably one of the best-written pieces of journalism on the subject of the Free Software/Open Source community and Microsoft’s relationship with it. Non-technical readers, fear not! The best part about this article is that, while it’s long-winded, it’s just technical enough to be accurate without being geek-centric like so many others in this genre.
In fact, I highly recommend that you read it especially if and specifically because you are non-technical, as it does a good job of laying out the foundations of what is an extremely important issue in the computer world. It also shows off just how sleazy Microsoft can get in a way which might make more sense to some than the monopoly suit of a few years back:
. . . now there’s a shadow hanging over Linux and other free software, and it’s being cast by Microsoft. The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsome competitors like Google, Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won’t be free anymore.
Well, let’s not forget their biggest worry: as always, themselves. Microsoft has created the all-time most Microsoft-iest Operating System ever, better known to the world as “Vista.” They’ve created an over-bloated monstrosity that uses too much memory for what it does and does too little.
So rather than create something that is more in line with what consumers want and actually works right, Microsoft has elected to rattle their sabres at the Free Software community and try to use fear to grab the market share that incompetence is losing them.
This is not the first time, by far, that Microsoft has resorted to litigation instead of innovation. (Oooh! I just sounded like Johnny Cochran just there!) A while ago, Microsoft bought out a company by the name of BSD specifically for the purpose of using BSD’s patents to try to sue the Linux community into oblivion. It didn’t work then, and it’s not likely to work now, given recent rulings by the Supreme Court. Besides which the supposed 200+ patents that Microsoft thinks it owns most likely include conventions common to Windows, Mac OSX, Linux GUI and a number of others.
And it bears mentioning that, like the article says, these claims are unlikely to appear in court, ever. That’s because if a court starts ruling on what is and what is not a legitimate patent, the results might not be so good for Microsoft, and also because it will start a litigation war that won’t really benefit anyone.
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