It came out today that Microsoft is now claiming that open source software breaks 235 of its patents. And, of course, it would seem on the surface that Microsoft wants what it (again on the surface) wants most: Money. But I think this whole thing is yet another smoke and mirrors set up to try to take down the competition that is threatening Microsoft’s strangle hold on the computing world. You see on this same day it was announced that the Japanese government would be migrating to open source software. This migration is to happen this coming July. The central government of Japan plans on spending approximately 10.4 billion dollars over the next year and wants to decrease its reliance on Microsoft.
I don’t know if the two announcements are just happenstance or if they are related. But the Juggernaut known as Microsoft has a track record of working ahead to keep what little competition it has squelched. This could be one of those instances.
But what of these patent infringements? What are they?
- Kernel: violates 42 Microsoft patents.
- Various GUIS: 65 Microsoft patents
- Open Office: 45 Microsoft patents
- Various E-mail programs: 15 Microsoft patents
- Various open source programs: 68 Microsoft patents
Microsoft, in standard form, refused to specify what the patent infringements were.
Of course in some instances we’re talking about patents Microsoft has claimed that cover the way a menu is laid out. Many of these patents won’t stand up in court. In fact, recently it came out that the Supreme Court unanimously voted that patents had been too readily handed out over the past two decades and many of them are most likely invalid. I would venture that many of the Microsoft claims will fall under that category.
But I don’t think that matters to Microsoft. I think the only thing that matters is that they take the open source community to task in order to make the companies relying on open source solutions afraid. Once those companies are afraid Microsoft is probably certain that they will come crawling back.
I don’t think that will be the case this time. I think the courts will find the majority of the claimed patents are invalid and the rest questionable. And I think we’ve finally reached a point in time where companies are no longer afraid of the computer behemoth. I think the bully on the playground has lost its ability to strike fear in the hearts of the smaller kids. And I think this recent patent infringement threat is nothing more than a lame scare tactic. Only this time it’s not going to work. There was once a time when Microsoft shook the branch of fear the world shook. But now I think this new claim is showing how afraid Microsoft has truly become of open source software.