Monday, May 14, 2007

Microsoft FUD Attack

The big news today is Microsoft's attacks on Open Source Software. Microsoft is claiming that various Linux open source software infringes on their patents. Of course, they are not saying what particular patents that are being infringed upon. The reason for not pointing out the violations are multi-fold with the reasons all being related to the simple fact that Microsoft wants to spread as much FUD as possible because GPL 3 is going to totally ruin their plans for subverting open source. You see, GPL 3 has much better patent language which would make any attempt to use patents against GPL 3 non-practical as it makes deals such as the Novel deal impossible so Microsoft can't play the extortion game.

While I personally don't like the idea of patents on software, for the simple fact that software is just the application of mathematics to a particular problem, I don't have much say in the matter. Personally, as it is possible that I could infringe on a patent while creating my own software without any references whatsoever to the patent being infringed, I think the system is fundamentally flawed. The fact of the mater is that in the US, there are software patents. The key question is are Microsoft's claims valid?

I suspect that the predominant reason that Microsoft does not want to specify where the infringements are, besides to help spread FUD, is that a significant number of the patents are obvious in nature (and it is now possible to get patents that are obvious thrown out). Other patents probably have a lot of prior art that Microsoft did not disclose. Finally, the one or two patents that are "legitimate" are probably easy to work around so if they were revealed the infringement would be patched within minutes of disclosure.

On the bright side, the fact that Microsoft is trying to spread so much FUD must mean that they realize that the open source solutions are superior to their offerings (which I am forced to use due to the fact that most of my paying work is for their OS) and they realize that if there is not enough FUD to keep people using Windows, users will trickle away and without their OS/Office monopoly they will go bankrupt as from a historical perspective their monopoly was not a result of quality but of the tie-in with IBM. Had IBM not foolishly babied Microsoft along and Microsoft had to win market share on the merits of their software, they would probably have failed miserably. Mind you, they may have still fluked a monopoly as the best products don't always win. If they did, I would be typing this on the market leading Commodore Amiga computer and the awful x86 architecture would have been put to pasture long ago instead of being entrenched to the point that not even Intel can get rid of it (like they have been trying).

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