A lot has been written, spoken and debated about the current, um, “motives” that the death star in Redmond has aimed at the FOSS community, and a lot of speculation has arisen as to which distro could be the next Judas, selling out FOSS for well over 30 pieces of silver.
[Note: The religious reference above does not imply that I think the next FOSS domino to fall will be Christian Ubuntu. On the contrary — if I were a gambling man, I’d put my money on Mandriva. No doubt that Darth Ballmer and the rest of the corporate leeches oozing their way out of that campus off the 405 east of Seattle would love to get a FOSS foothold in Europe, either real or imagined. So my guess is that the hook is baited and they’re hoping to reel in Mandriva — but don’t do it, folks!]
What’s lacking from the discussion, however, at any significant length is “why?”
Speculation runs amok, ranging from a boundless greed and loathing in the corporate culture at Microsoft (from the top down) to scaring FOSS developers and users into submission by the threat of a legal sword of Damocles hanging collectively over their heads. But this is all theory and speculation — great fodder for discussion, but nothing concrete.
[Bear in mind, incidentally, that of this writing — as if someone is holding his or her breath — Microsoft has yet to release the 235 alleged patent violations. As I wrote in an earlier blog, Sen. Joe McCarthy did the same thing in the 1950s, with a list of Communists in the State Department, none of which was ever named. ]
So without any firm evidence — just a hunch based on what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” — my guess is that Microsoft’s “because” in this whole FOSS harrassment “why” is based on a legal end run that they might try in the courts to reel in FOSS.
Noting the continuous failure of SCO’s case against IBM/Novell/Whomever (a case that was over long ago, but SCO hasn’t realized it yet), Microsoft’s legal tack could be away from suing other companies and convince a court that the distros they’ve lined up and paid for handsomely translate into an admission, in the court’s eyes, that GNU/Linux arguably does violate Microsoft’s alleged patents, and the more agreements with GNU/Linux entities they collect serves to bolster their case. As noted on one blog, a writer wrote, “See, your Honor? These Linux companies knew they were using our patents! Why, they even signed an agreement with us saying so!”
The statement above, of course, is nonsense. But the courts and legislatures are filled with nonsensical arguments and nonsensical bills that have found their way into rulings and into law. The clear and present danger here is that, the climate of the courts being what it is, there is a remote possibility that Microsoft’s strategy — if this is indeed what they’re trying to do — could have, what they call in legal circles, some merit.