Ah the roller coaster that is Microsoft. The up again, down again support for Linux and open source. One minute they are opening their minds to forming a new branch of their company to further open source, the next they are creating a "secure boot" system that will cost companies like Red Hat just to allow them to boot up their operating system. And now -- now -- they drop a lead straw on a fairly fragile camel's back. That straw?
That's right. After posting their first ever revenue loss, Microsoft takes a page out of the SCO book and decides it's time to go after patents -- in the form of patent protection. Their first "taker", Amdocs Software Systems. This company is ponying up the money to license patents from Microsoft in order to gain "mutual access to each company’s patent portfolio". A nice little give and take.
But there's something else going on here.
Microsoft must be seeing the writing on the white board. Companies are already proclaiming Windows 8 a catastrophe. Open source is gaining momentum on numerous levels, and Microsoft is now leveraging everything they can to ensure that a catastrophic failure on the part of Windows 8 won't doom them. Even to the tune of SCO-like tactics.
The proprietary juggernaut was busying itself bullying mobile device manufacturers like HTC, but now, Microsoft is holding the knife to the throat to the server landscape. Since 2007 Microsoft has laid claim to over 235 patent infringements to their precious portfolio. During that time SCO made a similar claim and lost in a blaze of embarrassing fury. Since 2007, no proof has ever risen from these claims and as Microsoft has been unwilling to make public the infringements, I would imagine nothing will come of it now. So, what does that mean?
When a large company posts a loss, something has to give. Large scale cutbacks are made, benefits are trimmed, etc. But in the case of Microsoft, patent lawsuits are dusted off and made ready for the court. Or, better yet, dust off that suit of holier-than-though protectorate armor that one wears when they want others to feel protected from the inevitable law suit.
But think about it...what this really boils down to is little more than Mafia-level bullying. You pay us a fee and we will protect you from us.
Isn't there a legal term for that? And shouldn't it be illegal?
Microsoft really just needs to get over this. So they posted a loss -- everyone eventually does. And so what if Windows 8 lays a rotten egg so foul it will make Windows ME look like OS X? They'll recover (so long as the XBox doesn't epic fail).
I would love to see a company look Microsoft in the eye and say, "No, we don't need your protection from your patent law suits because they won't hold up in court." At some point, someone will do just that and when they do, the court room brawl will be a yawn fest that no one will care about. In the end, Microsoft will lose and they'll fold up their bag of tricks and tuck them away for another rainy day on Wall Street.
Microsoft, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. High Road, meet Microsoft. Microsoft, meet High Road. Why don't the two of you get to know each other for a while?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.