More links on Microsoft’s FOSS War

A few more articles worth reading on Microsoft’s anti-open-source FUD war.

First up is Jonathan Schwarz’s open letter with Free Advice for the Litigious, where he explains how Sun dealt with the open source competition. A choice quote:

With business down and customers leaving, we had more than a few choices at our disposal. We were invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of open source. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal. We were offered the choice to scuttle Solaris, and resell someone else’s operating system. We declined. And we were encouraged to innovate by developers and customers who wanted Sun around, who saw the value we delivered through true systems engineering.

Next up is Daniel Eran of RoughlyDrafted, who compares how Apple and Microsoft have approached open source, in Microsoft’s Unwinnable War on Linux and Open Source. He has some particularly harsh things to say about the Mono project, which I think are overstated. But there also is a strong kernel of truth in there:

We already know that Mono development exists at the whim of Microsoft, and that dangerous looking stalactites of patent threats point down from above. Mono developers insist that Microsoft is a changed company and would never let anything bad happen to developers working to extend the features of its .Net.

Microsoft’s own icy embrace of Mono developers is to offer a license that allows them to do anything but offer commercial software. Mono is nothing more than a training camp on how to serve Microsoft that leads to a do or die diploma ceremony at the end.

Finally we have Steven O’Grady of Redmonk doing one of his trademark Q&A discussions. Its great stuff, and though he does try to walk a fine to not offend Microsoft (one of his customers), in the end it seemed pretty clear how dismayed he was by this move on Microsoft’s part:

Microsoft has spent the past few years rehabilitating – at great expense and great effort – a highly negative public image. One that, importantly, did not terribly impact its ability to do business, but one that left the firm with very few defenders and advocates. It was, in many respects, the least loved firm in the industry.

While the Microsoft of the past year or so was certainly not beloved, it had gone some distance to changing the minds of many, persuading even some ardent critics that they’d learned a great deal from their past behaviors and emerged as a more responsible corporate player. Agree or disagree, articles describing the new “kinder, gentler” Microsoft abounded.

And then there was yesterday. Depending on how Microsoft proceeds from the statements made to Fortune, I could see virtually all of that hard won goodwill evaporating overnight. Whether their business is as immune to the negative sentiment as it was in the past remains to be seen, but I know that if I intended to compete with social movements – as Microsoft obviously intends to – I’d be trying to make friends, not enemies.

I think that says it all. My fearless prediction is that 5-10 years from now people will look back at yesterday and see it as one of the pivotal moments of the software industry, one where Microsoft turned their own customer base against them.

[Update 12:54 Pacific] Eben Moglen of the Free Software Foundation explains the Microsoft threat far better than I ever could:

[Update 05-16-07 10:49 Pacific] One more good link: Andy Updegrove does another Q&A.

~ by Andrew Shebanow on 15May07.

3 Responses to “More links on Microsoft’s FOSS War”

  1. Remember, MS refuses to list any of the patents for fear that the FOSS community will find ways to invalidate them. So for now, the number is just something MS is pulling out of their bum.

  2. I don’t think they’re pulling it out of their bum – I’m sure they did a very detailed survey to find as many infringements as they could. Whether those are actually real infringements that would hold up in court is another story.

    But the real issue here isn’t some raft of lawsuits that are coming. Instead, its the shakedowns. Microsoft says some customers are already paying them, Novell is paying them, and some OEMs as well. Microsoft will just send their black-hatted lawyers out to pry money out of people without filing lawsuits. Much safer and more lucrative than actually filing suit. (IBM has done similar things for years, but not targeting open source – check google for “IBM patent extortion”).

    I personally feel this will backfire on Microsoft and customers will revolt. But maybe this is a false hope.

  3. […] More links on Microsoft’s FOSS War « Shebanation “Finally we have Steven O’Grady of Redmonk doing one of his trademark Q&A discussions. Its great stuff, and though he does try to walk a fine to not offend Microsoft (one of his customers)” – interesting, it apparently reads as less harsh than i thought (tags: redmonk andrewshebanow Microsoft patents Fortune) […]

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