Open source evangelist Jeremy Allison was in New Zealand yesterday, where he issued dire warnings of Microsoft launching a patent attack against open source to win back mobile market share. (Picture from Wikipedia.)
Allison, who famously quit Novell after it announced its patent pact with Microsoft, told a Linux conference in Wellington that Microsoft has to go to court or Windows Mobile is dead. He called a patent fight its "nuclear option."
Such threats made sense a few years ago, when Microsoft was Mordor and open source the Shire, but Microsoft now has a ton of open source development going on, its opponents are not small companies but Google, and recent patent decisions have shown the GPL to be just as enforceable as a Microsoft EULA.
If there is an open source Frodo out there he's probably got his Windows PC in a Microsoft backpack.
While making these predictions Allison apparently wore a Samba t-shirt and agreed that Microsoft's relations with the open source interoperability project have been good.
A second story in the same publication, APCMag (where Microsoft is a big advertiser) gave another reason why Allison's crystal ball may be cloudy. An analysis of kernel contributions by LWN.net founder Jonathan Corbet showed 75% of the code contributions during 2009 were from corporations, not individuals.
A sizable number of companies helped build the kernel last year, he said, and reverse engineering is required for drivers a lot less often because their owners often share information on them, or there are alternatives available.
So if Linux is going corporate, and Microsoft is benefiting from open source, why would the company drop a legal nuke that could well turn out to be a dud in court?
We should ask Allison that when he gets back.