Microsoft has made a second intellectual property (IP) licensing announcement this week. After announcing a cross-licensing deal with Amazon.com (which had lots of NDA stipulations), Microsoft revealed on February 25 it had struck a deal with Panasonic for its exFAT technology.
exFAT, or EXtended File Allocation Table, is an enhanced version of the FAT file system from Microsoft that uses less overhead than the Windows NTFS file system. It extends the maximum file size of 4GB in FAT32 to virtually unlimited. exFAT is part of part of Windows CE and Windows client and is used by a number of consumer electronics vendors. Sony, Canon, Sanyo and Tuxera already have signed IP licensing agreements for exFAT.
Panasonic also obtained from Microsoft a patent license that covers FAT32 long file name technology in its products, according to Microsoft's February 25 press release.
It's worth noting the differences in Microsoft's two IP announcements this week, given that a number of open-source backers claimed that Microsoft's patent agreement with Amazon was not noteworthy.
Maybe Amazon was just licensing exFAT/FAT, some argued. Sure, maybe Amazon licensed those technologies too; it's impossible to tell, given what Microsoft disclosed and Amazon refused (or was not allowed) to discuss. But as I mentioned to some readers, when Microsoft is simply licensing exFAT/FAT, it calls that out specifically in the release, even if the licensee isn't talking about how/what they plan to do with the technology.
In Amazon's case, Microsoft called out the fact Amazon is using open-source technology (Linux, specifically) in the Kindle and on its back-end servers. Some open-source backers said they believed Microsoft did this to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to hurt Linux.
Maybe so. But I'm curious why Amazon ended up paying Microsoft and seemingly agreed not to talk about terms. If this were a simple patent-licensing arrangement, why the secrecy and no comments about whether patent-infringement claims around Linux were part of the deal?
By the way, I am not saying I know or believe that Linux infringes on any Microsoft technologies (as some of my readers seem to think I am attesting). I have no idea whether that is true. I am simply curious what Microsoft is showing companies selling and using Linux, like Amazon, to get them to sign on the dotted line....