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Innovation

Survey says: Microsoft's patent might worries few, angers many more

If I were a large enterprise or ISV or service provider or telco I would take Microsoft's implied threats seriously. And I would seek direct, specific relief ... in writing. It could be quite simple, something like, "As I buy these products from Microsoft, it then promises not to sue me for the use of GPL v 1, v 2, or v3 licensed code and goods forever."
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Written by Dana Gardner on

We all gained some illuminating feedback through the poll I conducted this week in my blog commentary on Microsoft's escalating aggression through patents-posturing about open source software's legitimacy.

And while I will assume that the poll is not scientific, with a response tally of around 4,000, it does provide insight into the thinking of those inclined to vote. The ongoing poll, incidentally, was begun last November soon after Microsoft announced it's alliance with Novell on SuSE Linux, and CEO Steve Ballmer alluded to injurious violations of Microsoft's intellectual property in other Linux distributions.

The latest poll results remain consistent with the first sets of voting on blog readers' sentiment: Linux as white satin-clad Princess Leia, Microsoft as imperial strongman Darth Vader.

The highly positive Talkback thumbs up tally from this week's blog, and the tenor of the 200-odd comments, also give us some inkling into the zeitgeist around Microsoft's latest salvos against the likes of Linux, JBoss, Geronimo, and MySQL.

Of course we really don't know who or what Microsoft's lawyers are referring to when the company's executives say that more than 200 of their patents are violated. Even Microsoft's Linux partner, Novell, doesn't know. And Novell doesn't even agree with its Redmond benefactor that any patents are in fact violated.

The poll, then, is not so much about substance as perception. The kind of perceptions a good lawyer may count on in patent proceedings, especially if a jury is involved. There's also the preferences of developers and enterprises buyers to consider. Microsoft knows the "hearts and minds" business well enough to know these things can work for you, or against.

And so our survey provides a strong indicator that Microsoft's trial balloons on the subject have swiftly taken on a lead veneer. The vast majority of respondents, some 54 percent, indicate that they would prefer to increase their use of Linux -- and decrease their use of Windows, as a result of Microsoft's patent pleadings.

And some 36 percent of voters indicate they prefer to pay no attention to Microsoft's passive-aggressive position on the subject. That means roughly 90 percent of those responding are not swayed by Microsoft's arsenal of legal ammunition in terms of their moving away from Linux in favor of Windows, based on Microsoft's rights.

I was actually hoping that many more of these voters would go for the third choice, which is: "Seek a clear covenant from Microsoft upon your next big purchase contract (Vista?) that protects your company specifically from legal action from Microsoft on Linux use."

If I were a large enterprise or ISV or service provider or telco I would take Microsoft's implied threats seriously. And I would seek direct, specific relief ... in writing. It could be quite simple, something like, "As I buy these products from Microsoft, it then promises not to sue me for the use of GPL v 1, v 2, or v3 licensed code and goods forever."

Case closed.

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