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
I have no doubts. It is 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.