Don't let the Microsoft - Linux legal threat undermine enterprise IT

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Microsoft’s decision to highlight its allegation that Linux and open source software violates 235 of its patents has provoked a range of reactions:

  • Anger among open source software advocates
  • Concern among IT managers running open source and Windows operating systems in the same business (and who isn't?)
  • Speculation about quite what this move is meant to achieve

Digg, has seen a pretty heated debate on ComputerworldUK’s story that Novell refutes Microsoft’s claims, even though it signed a controversial deal to collaborate over virtualisation integrations between Windows and Suse Linux.

Some people suggest that Microsoft is just involved in a crude shakedown of rival software vendors. Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and co do play hardball, but they don’t need the money and they are surely sick of legal disputes.

Others suggest that the move is simply an effort to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt around the whole open source movement and so put off enterprise users.

This is more likely, but Microsoft long ago acknowledged that most businesses run a mixed IT environment and no matter how much the concept of open source sticks in the throats of those in charge at Redmond, the future involves open standards and interoperability.

A good overview of the issues can be found here, but surely the key issue is not that Microsoft is defending its intellectual property but, having made the threat, what will it do?

IT directors and managers are, of necessity, pragmatists. The last thing they want is vendors suing each other when they should be developing systems to allow their products to interact seamlessly.

Over time they will chose the vendors and products that deliver cost effective interoperable systems. Vendors ignore this at their peril.

For ComputerworldUK's full coverage of the issues, see Explainer: Microsoft - Linux patent wars

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