Does Microsoft want a Linux trial?

What Matt Asay claims to want is a legal invasion. But I don't think he really wants that. He wants a peek at what Microsoft is settling for.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on


Matt Asay hits the nail on the head. In full "knock this board off my shoulder mode," the Ubuntu COO dares Microsoft to sue Canonical, or Google, or someone else over its Linux claims who might fight back.

To torture my recent analogy (analogies can't fight back), Microsoft isn't Neville Chamberlain. It's the guy on the other side of the table, the one with the mustache.

What Matt claims to want is a legal invasion. But I don't think he really wants that.

A Microsoft-Ubuntu suit might bring Ubuntu attention and goodwill, it might let Mark Shuttleworth strut about like Winston Churchill, but it will also bring lawyers descending on London like the Luftwaffe.

I think Matt would rather put Mark Shuttleworth's money into marketing and development than lawyers.

What Matt really wants, I suspect, is a peek at what Microsoft is settling for.

Microsoft is signing cross-license deals, patent peace agreements. It tells the public they're about Linux, and its terms include a requirement that the other party keep its mouth shut. Thus we don't know Microsoft's real terms, its true bottom line, and whether the agreements are really all about Linux at all.

We don't know, for instance, if Amazon got licenses for technology other than Linux from Microsoft, or how much Amazon paid for patent peace. The Novell agreement had payments going both ways, and you may remember how Red Hat spun it as a victory for Linux.

In retrospect, I think it was. Microsoft has not moved since 2006 to get rich off Linux. It has instead sought to participate in open source.

Matt's right. Microsoft has sued no one who it knew would fight back. The closest it has come is the TomTom suit, which was quickly settled -- and we don't know those terms to this day. We didn't get legal war. We got legal peace.

As we have in this case.

My guess is that at some point, when both Google and Microsoft find it to be in their mutual self-interest, some cross-licensing deal will be signed, and a press release will go out. Probably when Google sees something in Microsoft it wants.

It has been over three years since Microsoft and Novell made their deal. War has not broken out. May that remain the case.

I don't like lawyers.

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