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Microsoft: Steward of Linux, protector of competition

If Microsoft or any other software vendor thinks they will improve their market standing by suing users and partners -- we would have seen a lot more of that already. Fortunately these companies remain mostly run by salespeople, and not lawyers. It's not been kumbaya, it's been mutual assured survival -- as long as the growth has been in double-digits. High growth has always protected and insulated the software industry from itself.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor on
Peter Yared, CEO at ActiveGrid, has penned a CNET commentary on the Microsoft-Novell Linux agreements that seems to call into question Linux's "special" status going forward. The notion that open source and GPL licensing differentiates Linux (and other open source products) from commercial operating systems is now moot, Yared seems to be saying.
Consumers will benefit anew as commercial products and open source products compete on equal legal footing -- as long as the players reach detent based on individual legal pacts. Let's walk away from the mutual-assured legal-costs destruction that, he says, has allowed open source (and even a lot of commercial code products) to even exist.
Well, I agree that more competition benefits users. But should we just escrow all that's happened with Linux over the past 10 years into some collective amnesia account because Novell and Microsoft set a precedent to pretend that the differences between open source and commercial source don't necessarily jibe with their intended business partnerships?
Would Microsoft, if it had the legal leverage that Yared alludes to, have allowed Linux to emerge as the industry-use standard it has while withholding the legal means to prevent such growth? Not on my planet. Oh, perhaps Microsoft saw Linux doing more damage to Unix than Windows in the short term and so allowed it to bloom?
One of the boasts that Microsoft can make about Vista is that it carries, roughly, the same cost as XP. Would that have been likely without the price-pressure the Linux has brought to the global market? Speaking of global, wouldn't software patents as clubs against the competition be a tough strategy to maintain from country to country, and so isn't the whole notion of software patents in the global economy mostly moot, at least in practice?
As Yared points out, the software industry is brutal and ruthless. But not enough to sue your own customers and partners, apparently. I for one am thankful that Linux and open source has provided a monstrous speed bump before the rapacious locomotives of the commercial software industry. And, lo, innovation has not been smitten from the network. But unlike Yared, I see no reason to remove those speed bumps now that they are truly proving effective.
If Microsoft or any other software vendor thinks they will improve their market standing by suing users and partners -- we would have seen a lot more of that already. Fortunately these companies remain mostly run by salespeople, and not lawyers. It's not been kumbaya, it's been mutual assured survival -- as long as the growth has been in double-digits. High growth has always protected and insulated the software industry from itself.
Yared appreciates that as the growth slows, the ugly nature of corporate survival increases. It's too soon to think that slow growth will hurt an open source business model any more than it hurts the high-volume monopoly model. In other words, time is on Linux's side. No need to change course now, Novell or no Novell.[poll id=10]
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