Linux tweaks the tiger's tail

Summary:commentary If there's one thing that LinuxWorld has reinforced this week, it is the arrival of the open source operating system as a legitimate market rival to proprietary software.The announcement by IBM that it will not use its arsenal of patents against Linux -- coupled with an appeal to other vendors to do the same -- does something to ease one of the prime concerns of the open source community.

commentary If there's one thing that LinuxWorld has reinforced this week, it is the arrival of the open source operating system as a legitimate market rival to proprietary software.

The announcement by IBM that it will not use its arsenal of patents against Linux -- coupled with an appeal to other vendors to do the same -- does something to ease one of the prime concerns of the open source community.

However, while SCO continues to nip at the heels of the community through its legal action over claims its proprietary Unix code has been copied into Linux, evidence is growing that the open-source movement is starting to tweak the tail of a far fiercer rival to an extent that may attract more than growls of irritation in response. Microsoft is not happy.

Australia's own telecommunications heavyweight, Telstra, has come front and centre of the debate, with reports indicating it played Microsoft off against Linux to secure a better deal from the proprietary software giant.

Samba co-developer Jeremy Allison told delegates at LinuxWorld "If you're not piloting a Linux desktop program, you're paying too much for your Microsoft client software.

"The more you pilot Linux, the deeper the discounts get".

However, open source advocates are becoming increasingly concerned over the likelihood of patent lawsuits from Microsoft or other vendors. One just-released study claimed Linux potentially infringed 283 patents, including 27 held by Microsoft.

The study's release came after revelations a two-year old memo from Hewlett-Packard claimed "Microsoft will soon be launching a patent-based legal offensive against Linux and other free software projects."

ZDNet Australia's sister site CNET News.com asks you this week to comment on whether Microsoft will use its arsenal of patents to curb Linux .

Your correspondent has no doubts. It's not whether they will, it's when they will.

Allison probably has the best take on it. Without naming Microsoft specifically, he said at LinuxWorld, "Linus [Torvalds, Linux's original creator] and I have a bet.

"I think that a big open source project will get sued this year for patent violations.

"He says it's going to be next year".

It's coming up damn soon, at any rate.

Topics: Open Source, Legal, Linux

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