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Torvalds Says Microsoft is Bluffing on Patents

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the summon-the-patent-attorneys-from-their-crypts dept.

Microsoft 157

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft's aggressive defense of its intellectual property, which includes claims that Linux violates a number of its patents, is nothing more than "a marketing thing," according to Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel. "They have been sued for patents by other people, but I don't think they've — not that I've gone through any huge amount of law cases — but I don't think they've generally used patents as a weapon," Torvalds said. "But they're perfectly happy to use anything at all as fear, uncertainty and doubt in the marketplace, and patents is just one thing where they say, 'Hey, isn't this convenient? We can use this as a PR force.'""

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FUD used for marketing (5, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291220)

FUD used for marketing
News at 11

Re:FUD used for marketing (4, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292748)

In the end it doesn't matter if it's a bluff or not, because Microsoft will never reveal anything either way. It's the FUD they want, not the money.

Re:FUD used for marketing (0, Redundant)

farrellj (563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294882)

I guess MS is as sure of their IP as SCO was!

And it will be fun with the obvious happens to MS too!


Re:FUD used for marketing (4, Interesting)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293216)

Yes, Linux is playing captain Obvious here for most of the /. crowd. However the story will hopefully be picked up by a few more mainstream outlets where it will help counterbalance the FUD a little. I expect that this is the point, it wasn't meant to get people in the LUGs talking.

As posters below rightfully point out, IBM wouldn't be neck deep in Linux if it was that encumbered.

Re:FUD used for marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22294026)

>Yes, Linux is playing captain Obvious here for most of the /. crowd.

I use OS X, you insensitive clod!

not now perhaps ... (5, Insightful)

Kristoph (242780) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291260)

Microsoft does not use their patents as a weapon because their revenue continues to surge despite the increase in the popularity of Linux.

If/when Linux becomes a significant threat to growth, you can be sure Microsoft will use all tools at its disposal, including parents, aggressively.


Re:not now perhaps ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291442)

If/when Linux becomes a significant threat to growth, you can be sure Microsoft will use all tools at its disposal, including parents, aggressively.
If Ballmer brought his parents, there could be trouble.

Re:not now perhaps ... (5, Funny)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293472)

Ballmer's parents are going to have to get past my parents if they hope to invade my basement stronghold.

Re:not now perhaps ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291500)

"you can be sure Microsoft will use all tools at its disposal, including parents, aggressively."

Yep, they'll get the parents to kick the linux kids out of the basements, forcing them to get real jobs. Once that is done, linux goes away and the rest of us can get back to real unix

Now, get out of my yard, you young whippersnappers.

Re:not now perhaps ... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291628)

However, they do not operate in a vacuum. Linux adoption is already way higher in Europe than the USA. Europe has been a bigger market than the USA for some time now (sorry if that bruises egos, but it's true). If microsoft too-aggressively attacks linux, the already-somewhat-frosty climate towards software patents in europe gets much worse, there's even more clear+present evidence for the likes of the FFII, FSF Europe and the european green and pirate parties to use to push for patent system reform or outright abolition. Personally, I think all techies I know in microsoft would welcome the abolition of patents, but the suits are another matter, and the techies aren't in charge in microsoft (microsoft would probably have disappeared a long time ago if they were, of course).

Re:not now perhaps ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22294820)

(sorry if that bruises egos, but it's true)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you're directing that towards Americans. Allow me to be the first to bestow upon you your shiny new gold star. Europe is a continent made up of many countries. The United States is one country. There is a difference. I could say something here about apples and oranges but I'll leave the obvious up to you.

Re:not now perhaps ... (1)

janrinok (846318) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295260)

But you are ignoring the obvious. Perhaps if I rephrase it on behalf of the OP - 'Linux adoption is already way higher in European countries than in the USA'. Now it is clearly apples and apples and the OP's point is well made. And if that fact bruises Americans' egos (at least as much as it appears to have bruised yours....) then we all apologise for that but ignoring facts doesn't change things.

Re:not now perhaps ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22292524)

MS is not known for under-playing its hand. Whatever they have in the arsenal, they use. What they don't have, they pretend to have. Linus is right. When you combine all of the talking with a lack of specificity , not to mention a complete lack of action, the evidence points straight to marketing.

back to the kernel, Linus. (2, Interesting)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291278)

Linus writes kernels- actually, a single kernel. He does not write text books, news articles, or legal documents. His guess is as good as yours or mine as to what Microsoft's intentions are.

Wait, scratch that. Mine is better- I am not an engineer.

The patents involve Xenix. Look it up sometime, it may seem oddly familiar.

However, I believe he's right in saying linux is not in any danger. It isn't- the only companies that might get pricked by these patents are commercial enterprises who are profiteering off of peoples' open source work. (see: the companies that Microsoft has signed patent treaties with)

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291786)

I do tend to agree with you about the value of Linus' opinion in this matter. I do think he is correct for the simple reason that IBM is pushing Linux. When it comes to patent's IBM pretty much is the expert. Microsoft's patents are more valuable to them as a treat than if they where used. The have seen the SCO case and the last thing they want is for there patents to be tossed out as obvious. It would weaken them and could bring down the EU on them.
It is far better to let them hang out in the dark and be an unknown threat than to be show as a paper tiger in court.
Of course if they get pushed into a corner then all bets are off.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292318)

The danger with patent infringement accusations isn't with the fact that these patents might exist, or that they may stand up in court, but that they can use the accusations to scare away potential customers of competing products. If somebody was considering Linux, and then read that Linux infringed on patents owned by MS, they may think twice about going to Linux. Companies do this all the time, and not just in the computer industry. My dad works in the chemical industry. Some companies get patents on methods they have been using for 20 years, and then goes to all their clients, and says, don't buy their product, they don't own the technology. They never have any intention of actually testing the patents in court. If they did, they know they'd lose. They just want the patent to tell the consumers, that look, they are infringing on our patents. Who know's what could happen to that company in a while if we decide to go to court.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

Martz (861209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294164)

Why should a customer be scared that a company they bought software from is infringing on one or more patents?

The customer didn't do any wrong, they licensed the software in good faith. Worst case scenario would be that the software becomes obsolete and the customer has to licence something else. The customer didn't infringe on the patent, the software company does. There may even be ways to recoup these costs given that the software company didn't have the rights to make the sales in the first place.

Now in the case of Microsoft, that is a given after X years anyway. MS rolls out a new version and ends the life and support for that product. It's a certainty that unless you keep up with the latest product line you'll be left high and dry without the systems you originally purchased. Any Microsoft product with activation has this potential.

It's bizarre to consider that if Microsoft were found to be infringing on a patent in Windows 2000/XP that most of the planets businesses and individuals would some how be liable for damages and compensation to the patent owning company.

A true definition of FUD, scare customers with information which has no bearing on them whatsoever.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294334)

It is dangerous to the customer for exactly the reasons you state. Let's take an example. Let's say that Oracle has a patent on some database technology and says that MS is infringing on the technology. Now, some company wants to use SQL server. So the Oracle rep goes and tells them, that it's not a good idea, because who knows, they could be forced to pull their product off the market in a year's time. Sure the company itself probably wouldn't be held liable, but they would have all their data stuck in a program which the vendor can no longer legally support. Better off just going with Oracle so you don't have to worry about these patent issues popping up. In the future. Maybe the company will go with SQL server anyway. But it could mean a few more sales if it makes people think twice about going with SQL Server. It's pure FUD, but since when could customer's purchasing decisions not be influenced by FUD.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (2, Insightful)

initialE (758110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294816)

Interesting, your comment. It makes me think why people would laugh off the numerous patents that Microsoft are already infringing, and take seriously the patents that linux is supposedly infringing. Apparently it's more a matter of gut feeling and assurance than it is of law. Nobody believes a big company like Microsoft can be forced to pull a product, but it is somehow believable that Linux itself could be withdrawn from the market.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (5, Informative)

Tony (765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291988)

The patents involve Xenix. Look it up sometime, it may seem oddly familiar.

That's funny-- the patent lifetime is 20 years in the US. Since Microsoft sold it's derivative of AT&T's Unix to SCO[1] in 1987, it seems unlikely that the patents involve Xenix in any way.

Microsoft didn't really do any real research on Xenix. It was a pretty straight-forward 16-bit port of the AT&T source code, with lots of BSD code thrown in for flavor. This was a big deal mostly because they were getting Unix code to run on standard microprocessors. Once that was done, they licensed Xenix to SCO and a bunch of other companies, who ported it to their own platforms. Most of this was done in the early 80s. Back then, Microsoft wasn't applying for too many patents. And, since this was a port of existing code, there was little opportunity for "worthy" patents. If there were, they would've been granted over twenty years ago, and so would have expired by now.

Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it: it's extremely unlikely these patent threats involve Microsoft's port of AT&T's UNIX.

[1] SCO as in, "Santa Cruz Operation," not as in "We used to be Caldera, but wanted to confuse people into thinking we're Santa Cruz Operation."

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292248)

I believe Xenix was the first real "friendly" unix. It took some magic to get something like unix running on ultra low-end x86/pc hardware, so they are owed some credit. I don't think these patents are any danger to linux, as a whole- but I think Microsoft may have some random patents it could theoretically pull out of a hat and cause brief legal controversy. It's bad PR, though.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

nategoose (1004564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292514)

The only innovation that I'd heard of coming from Xenix was that it was the first to have console virtual terminals, but I'm not sure if this is true. Aside from that the only thing I could think of that they might have claimed to have invented with Xenix would have been something Intel or IBM PC specific, since Xenix did run on these, though it did so in 16 bit mode. Other stuff from Xenix would have belonged to AT&T, but yeah, it's all too old, and I doubt that MS would have been silly enough to make the statement about a patent that was gonna expire the next day.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (4, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291992)

Someone with mod points mark this fool down.

Linus actually *reads* the kernel code, and is aware of how the code arrived in the Linux kernel. And while Linus is not an author of law texts, he's certainly had to review and deal with copyright and patent law previously in the Linux kernel.

And oh, yes, if you're referring to the SCO lawsuits, go over to www.groklaw.net. The lawsuits were funded by Microsoft "partnership" deals with SCO and other Microsoft partners, and have fallen through because Novell actually owns the UNIX code in question. SCO is now in bankruptcy and delisted (or being delisted) from the NASDAQ after wasting years on a frivolous lawsuit instead of actually doing work.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292150)

How would Linus even know if some random contributor submitted Xenix code? Linus doesn't deal with any legal issues- the major linux co's do. What linus does does not garner law suits. He writes a kernel.

I won't go to some random open source zealot site for my information on the patents. I am fairly certain SCO does have some grounds for having created random things like virtual terminals, a friendly install process, and laying much of the groundwork for Unix on the 386 architecture. I just don't think these patents will do any damage to the horde.

The patents are too obvious. Apple lost its lawsuit against Microsoft "stealing" the idea of the GUI for this very reason.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22295866)

Linus actually *reads* the kernel code, and is aware of how the code arrived in the Linux kernel. And while Linus is not an author of law texts, he's certainly had to review and deal with copyright and patent law previously in the Linux kernel.

The article and the parent comment talk about patents, not copyright. And as far as patents are concerned, it doesn't matter how the code arrived in the kernel, it can be completely original code and still infringe patents. So if anybody is being the fool here, it's you, for confusing two very different things, patents and copyright.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292994)


You said the only companies that might get pricked by these patents are commercial enterprises who are profiteering off of peoples' open source work. (see: the companies that Microsoft has signed patent treaties with)

Profiteering is defined as: To make excessive profits on goods in short supply

But how can a company 'profiteer' from an open source product when said product is freely available for them, or anyone else to make money from, with the full consent of its creators?

All they have to do is abide by the license terms, and they are free to make as much money as they like.

Thus the term does not fit this situation.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295520)

Warm and fuzzy community feelings aside, they patch up and sell work that is the product of free labor primarily by those who feel religiously compelled to write it. They do this to cut the costs of something in short supply, time and talent. They share a tiny shred of competency that keeps open source products moving, all profiting more than they are contributing.

Linux co's make money when what they make is different than that which is open and free- so rather than contributing, they profit by separating and stabilizing branches of free software. It's very non-Gnu. The marketing basically states that they are giving you something different for your money.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22293522)

he patents involve Xenix. Look it up sometime, it may seem oddly familiar.

Not only that, Interix [wikipedia.org] also may be of interest.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

Hymer (856453) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295798)

Most of those patents would by in the category "Bloody obvious" or "Prior art" which is quite clear when you look at Microsoft's patents.
Then there would be some in the MS-networking category but it would be foolish to use them because it would violate the "agreement" ;-) with the EU.
...and Microsoft is very well aware of this.

Microsoft's intentions are obvious: scare anyone they can from using Linux based products.

Re:back to the kernel, Linus. (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295890)

Perhaps that was Ballmer's intention. Now-a-days, they advertise interoperability on Windows Server's site. It's just not a market for "individualist" systems. So, I feel like the Novell partnership brought the dealings a bit more above the belt.

It may be unpopular to say so... (4, Insightful)

wpegden (931091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291314)

but when it comes to politics (and this is politics), Linus Torvalds always seems naive to me.

He may be sort of right about this (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291688)

He may be sort of right about this in that Microsoft probably won't want to fight because as soon as they reveal specifically what code infringes which patents the code will be removed, or prior art found. This has a potential of becoming a "McLibel" with poor programmers visibly stamped on by a multi-billion dollar company .... but with thousands of helpers in the background finding prior art, preparing cases that the patent is obvious etc. It could severely dent Microsoft's war-chest that is much more effectively used against commercial companies.

Re:He may be sort of right about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22293798)

Agreed. MS does not NEED to be specific to spook any company with a legal department. Not many software patents can survive a serious prior art challenge. Meanwhile, FUD works wonders against unsophisticated customers.

As I get older, I find it amazing to see how many people make a living off documenting and "mitigating" trivial amounts of "risk". The cure is often worse than the disease, raising the odds of other risks just to knock another decimal point off of the odds of something that was unlikely in the first place. For example: The patent risk of moving to open source software is trivial compared to the risk of a BSA audit that might result from keeping proprietary software. Patent suits against end-user companies are rare indeed, while BSA makes a living by selecting victims for audit and negotiating settlements. Which is more likely to wreck YOUR business?

Re:It may be unpopular to say so... (4, Insightful)

baffled (1034554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292630)

Agreed. Isn't Linus publicly taunting Microsoft to prove him wrong?

Re:It may be unpopular to say so... (5, Insightful)

babbling (952366) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293058)

He wants them to prove him wrong. Can you imagine the scenario where Microsoft has filed suit against Linus Torvalds for his work on the kernel? There's a lot of big companies (IBM, Sun, Nokia, Google, Red Hat, Oracle) that have a lot of money invested in this kernel. There's a couple of organisations (SFLC, OIN) that have been founded to pretty much retaliate against any such situation. Then there's the legal ambiguity about whether Microsoft can even use their patents to attack Free Software now, since they may be party to GPLv3. [fsf.org]

Pretty much every big company probably has some servers running Linux. Big financial companies together probably have hundreds/thousands of Linux servers. Those companies are Microsoft customers, and will not be happy if Microsoft starts taking legal action. Microsoft's threats are just part of their annual "be very afraid" tour. [youtube.com]

Another Flamewar? (3, Funny)

JeepFanatic (993244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291378)

Is Taco trying to completely set /. into a total flamewar? Two political topics, MS vs Google, and now a Linux vs Microsoft article?

Re:Another Flamewar? (1)

Wookieblaster (1080227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291654)

Having a "Linux vs Microsoft" argument for the millionth time might seem like beating a dead, rotting corpse of a horse, but it's a very fun horse to beat :)

Re:Another Flamewar? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291818)

Of course he is. Flamewars = controversy = comments = page views = ad impressions = revenue. What, did you think that Slashdot is about "news for nerds"? It's not - it's about stuff that matters, the ONLY stuff that matters. Money.

Re:Another Flamewar? (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292212)

Oi, who let you in here!? Back to accounts with you and let the engineers/scientists do some Microsoft bashing! ;)

Re:Another Flamewar? (1)

not_hylas( ) (703994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295698)

Oh no, no, no! the Macintosh contingency begs to differ, kind Sir - it is US, and OUR turn. Do step aside.

Re:Another Flamewar? (4, Funny)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291832)

Well at least we've settled the fact that Gnome and Vim are better than KDE and Emacs.

Re:Another Flamewar? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22292070)

Well, you're half right.

Re:Another Flamewar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22293532)

How dare you associate Vim to Gnome, you distant offspring of a Homo Faber! Everyone knowns that KDE and Vim are better than Gnome and Emacs! So there.

captcha: overtake. Now you're talking.

Re:Another Flamewar? (1)

joeslugg (8092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293056)

I say, let the fires rage and the blood spill!

C++ vs. Java!
Perl vs. Python!
vi vs. Emacs!
BASH vs. csh!
Gnome vs. KDE!
Linux vs. *BSD!
Torvalds vs. Stallman!
Free Software vs. Open Source!
Soviet Russia vs. Our new flavor-of-the-month overlords!
Not Enough Options vs. CowboyNeal!
Steps 1 & 2 vs. Step 3: PROFIT!
Dogs vs. Cats!
Ketchup vs. Mustard!
Peanut Butter vs. Jelly!


TACOpalypse now!
Repent! KARMAgeddon is at hand!!

Re:Another Flamewar? (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295936)

Is Taco trying to completely set /. into a total flamewar? Two political topics, MS vs Google, and now a Linux vs Microsoft article?
Well yeah. Having you seen the slashdot brand warpaint adverts at the top of the page?

Whoa I agree with Torvalds (5, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291406)

I've never understood how a programmer/direction manager/geek like Torvalds could raise so much interest over his opinion, but I do understand the draw to him. I rarely agree with what he says, but in this case it is truly spot on.

Microsoft is in trouble, and it has nothing to do with "anti-monopoly" legislation, or corporate badgering, or any of the sort. Microsoft is in trouble. This is defensive posturing in hopes of the market taking note and taking action by putting Microsoft ahead of the pack that has overtaken it.

For years we had geeks here call for Microsoft's abolishment, but lonely me with a few other market economy believers have said that Microsoft will fall from grace as IBM, Compaq, and GM had -- because they lost their competitive edge. The future is not in desktop software, that Microsoft heralded in with great accomplishment. Microsoft tore us out of the client-server picture, and now we're heading back there. They don't understand the situation, and their "Desktop first" mentality makes it near impossible to turn around.

Why they care about Linux is beyond me, though. The backend platform is slowly becoming useless as the protocols for integrating features-on-the-screen are quickly becoming irrelevant as the idea of hardware abstraction is truly coming to be. I remember when Microsoft's NT was released, with their first attempt at a hardware abstraction layer. I held out high hopes for it, but it was a failure, pure and simple. Today, though, we ARE hardware abstract in the processes most important to many of us: HTML, PHP, SQL, and the rest have become their own important entities, regardless of what is behind them.

Lately I am finding myself moving away from the desktop, more and more. Other than graphics design and CAD, I am almost entirely performing my computing duties in client-server mode. I've moved to Google Docs (buggy, but SO convenient since I have no need for a hard drive or memory stick), Google Mail for Domains, my blogs for newsletter dispersal (Wordpress) and phpBB for group comms. The underlying software and hardware is irrelevant to me as all my servers run different OS and hardware combos.

Microsoft is screwed, plain and simple, but I don't think any Linux providers are in better shape. The more I delve into relatively open source code (Wiki, WP, PHPBB, etc), the more I am amazed at what the masses can do to create better code for the reasons important to me. As I produce these low or no cost apps to my clients (not Linux, mind you), I am able to charge more for saving them the downtime and bugs and glitches and software costs. I can't wait for more server farms to become available as those costs will come down more, so my customers won't even need much of their own hardware.

In 1984, when I first connected my Hayes 300 baud modem, I would never have believed we'd return to the client-server days. I remember the reason for logging onto a BBS was to get stuff to my desktop; the idea of using it as a form of communication AND laboring was foreign to me, even when I ran my own BBS. Now, I can't imagine downloading anything when I can conveniently edit it, print it ("to PDF"), and distribute it almost entirely online.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291622)

I agree with that. I don't really care about CPU types, or machine code. I just care that the platform acts like the platform I expect. It's just something with an IP stack and some storage to me. I don't care if it's big or little endian, 64 bit, or 32 bit. Some people love to get down and dirty with their coding - I on the other hand have moved into Java. Sure, it's not entirely Write once, run anywhere, but it doesn't take much to change it around.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

majorme (515104) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293108)

I don't really care about CPU types
I am pretty sure you DO care about raw CPU power though which is someone else's trouble right? Not yours. But I know you are just trolling.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291676)

Hmm, I'm running Windows 2003 virtual machines for a couple of small companies on my Linux servers. The users use their off the shelf Windows XP laptops to connect and do all their work on the server through RDP. It is more convenient for them, since it allows them to move around the city - they can run their apps from home, from a client's conference room or from their own offices and the management and nursing of the Windows VMs is done at my place.

Effectively it is the 1980s all over again.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292300)

The hardware may be abstracted as you say but something has to drive it and something has to host all those wonderful databases and scripting languages. The OS proper may matter less and less to the end user but it will still damn well matter to those who maintain the servers. It will have to be robust, it will have to handle many sorts of loads, and it will have to scale. No, in your picture the "server" in client/server is still going to very much matter.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292674)

"Lately I am finding myself moving away from the desktop, more and more. Other than graphics design and CAD, I am almost entirely performing my computing duties in client-server mode. I've moved to Google Docs (buggy, but SO convenient since I have no need for a hard drive or memory stick), Google Mail for Domains, my blogs for newsletter dispersal (Wordpress) and phpBB for group comms. The underlying software and hardware is irrelevant to me as all my servers run different OS and hardware combos."

that right there sounds like a perfect reason to use Linux to me, but most likely a trimmed down version like what you see in some of those fancy new linux BIOSes that can use firefox/webkit straight out of the motherboard... or even the eeePC version of Xandros. What more do you need beyond internet, music, videos, documents, pictures, and games for the everyday computer user?

Why MS cares (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293766)

You've pretty much answered it yourself. For the spaces that MS plays in, or would like to play in, the actual OS kernel is becoming less and less important (though deep OS stuff is still very important for other parts of the industry). Increaingly, the kernel is hidden under some middleware or other that hides the kernel.

But.... MS have screwed up just about every attempt to diversify, even though they would love to. Gate's "visionary" keynotes of the last few years have all been about services etc that had very litle to do with MS core products (Windows and Office). Other people (Google et al) are doing a great job of realising that vision, but MS aren't.

So why are MS FUDding about the OS when it matters less and less? Well whether they like it or not, apart from Office, that's all they really have.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

cecom (698048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295464)

I've never understood how a programmer/direction manager/geek like Torvalds could raise so much interest over his opinion

It is simple really. Unlike 99% of the population and 99.9999999% of the people who waste their time on Slashdot (me included), Linus Torvalds has actually created something :-) Actions do speak louder than words and also help underscore them. It is very reasonable and practical to pay attention to the opinions of somebody who has proven himself as able to make good choices and deliver results, even if it is only in a narrow technical area.

There are a just few people who are globally known as exceptionally good software engineers - John Carmack would be another one, for example. It always pays to hear their opinions carefully.

Re:Whoa I agree with Torvalds (1)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295904)


A year ago, the small business where I work was all client-side, and therefore predominantly MS. We used Access for our database needs, Outlook for e-mail, frontpage for the website, etc.

When I was brought on board to do the IT, the first thing I did was build a new website based on a phpwebsite, a php/sql based content management system. While we are still in transition because the content needs to be verified (two of the three languages on the site are still made in front page), I expect that the final switch will come in about two weeks.

My current project is to convert our internal databases to mysql with a web based front-end written, again, in php. After that, we will convert our email/calendaring to a web based interface, either on some open source platform that we host ourselves or in google mail for domains.

The advantages are obvious. If we open a branch office, the employees there will be able to access our database or change our web page in exactly the same manner as local employees. Our website is higher quality and lower maintenance. We have traveling employees who will no longer need to have reports faxed or emailed to them from the office. All of our solutions are extensible if we should ever want to add functionalities. We will save on hardware because now a $200 thin client will do all of the work that we needed actual desktops for before.

That is not to say that we are anti-MS, strictly speaking. For example, we use MS Word because, frankly, it is the best for our needs: we need dictionaries in many languages, and those for google docs or open source applications suck terribly for languages other than English; it has obvious compatibility advantages in the short term. However, the number of applications that we run on desktops are diminishing, as are the things that tie us to any one operating system. In fact, with CXOffice, even our remaining Office apps can run on a couple of different OSs. Ironically, the only thing that ties us to Windows is not a Microsoft application; it's made by Adobe.

As you so aptly pointed out, all of our new applications are platform agnostic: I could run them on Solaris, Linux, Windows, BSD, OSX, you name it. I imagine that large companies are much further along in this process than we are, meaning that the corporate world will soon no longer be pumping cash into Microsoft. Everybody knows that home users are a very low-profit market, but soon they will be the only market for desktop applications. So, unless Microsoft can pump out a bunch of high-quality, low cost server side applications really quickly, they're screwed.

Linus is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291486)

I am with Linus on this one.
I just happen to believe that not agreeing with Linus is treacherous for anyone.

I wonder (3, Insightful)

s1d (1185389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291540)

Who's gonna be the new SCO?

Re:I wonder (2, Interesting)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292498)

The SCO case was intelligence gathering. I don't believe SCO ever intended to win that case. They just wanted the legal discovery. If you want to find exhaustive information about a company's IP profile, the best way to do so is to sue them in a broad IP case. Breaking into their headquarters is risky and stupid.

Why else do you suppose Novell paid their indemnification money so quickly?


Legal injunction (3, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291568)

Can't one of the many Linux organisations try and get a legal injunction barring Microsoft from claiming patents in Linux? A sort of defamation lawsuit?

This whole MS-patent crap is going to keep lingering over Linux' head, and MS is happy to leave it at that. If Linux community wants to get rid of it, they are the ones that have to take action.

That's right, Linus... (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291644)

And the BitKeeper license is not going to be a problem, right? Because they've never screwed over an open source project before, so they clearly won't start now.

Re:That's right, Linus... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22292462)


Scared animal (2, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291650)

Anyone else get the feeling from Microsoft lately that they are acting like a cornered and scared animal?

I'm not saying Microsoft is on it's way out or anything, but I think in the past couple of years they have finally realized "hey...if we aren't careful, we WILL become a moot point in this industry." Scared animals always make uncalculated and rash decisions.

Re:Scared animal (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292252)

They are a scared and cornered 700-lb (318-kg) gorilla. Such animals never go quietly. That's because you can't stab them in the back, or use stealth to take them down.

Microsoft will not go quietly if they have cause to remain in this defensive posture. Bank on it.


Re:Scared animal (1)

Helix666 (1148203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292312)

Anyone else think that they've started acting like that since Ballmer took over?

But, yes, their actions seem more and more desperate as the days go by. (Well, it seems like it to me...)

Open Source Patent Commons? (2, Interesting)

alteran (70039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291706)

The way patents work in much of the business world is that big companies cross-license their patent portfolios, essentially promising not to sue each other for all the moronic patents each other holds (I'm oversimplifying a little, but you get the idea). This is pretty effective for them.

I wonder if open-source should look into the same thing.

Even lacking a cross-licensing agreement, the fact that EFF would have a portfolio of moronic patents to smack people back with might give companies trying to sue open source pause, because they would know a big counter-suit was coming.

It would take the teeth out of MS's patent claims. The only companies this doesn't work against are patent trolls.

Obviously, the licensing on the patents should be such that they are freely available for use unless a company sues an open source product. Perhaps patents are not licensable in this way, but a far as I can tell, you can license stuff in any crazy way you want, just about.

Yes, patents are evil, but until they go away, open source would do well to be able to wield the same weapon as everybody else. Obviously, open source would need somebody with deep pockets to file the patents, but I think it's worth pursuing.

Re:Open Source Patent Commons? (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292886)

I haven't checked, but I seem to recall that IBM promised not to use any of their patents against open source software. I wonder, then, if it's possible to get IBM to consider looking at anyone who starts suing open source users for use of the plaintiff's patents to see if the plaintiff might be infringing on an IBM patent (of which, I hear, there are a few).

IBM probably wouldn't even need to actually do anything. Just have their lawyers say, "Hmm, I wonder if you're infringing on our patents." I doubt many of these cross-licensing agreements have been tested in court, so given that, this may even give Microsoft pause.

The MS FUD Announcement That Will Stun Us All (5, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291746)

Ballmer: Linus Skyvalds, I am your father.

Skyvalds: Noooooooooooooooo!

Re:The MS FUD Announcement That Will Stun Us All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22294096)

Let me correct that for you:

Ballmer: Linus Skyvalds, I am your father.

Skyvalds: Do not want!

"Bluffing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291748)

Well whether Linux is violating any particular patents, I do not know... but if it isn't, then these are serious defamatory accusations, they are not simply "bluffs".

fuddles thought that linus was 'bluffing' (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22291802)

save for some missing wireless drivers, etc.... the penguins may have already waddled their way into wwworld domination. let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

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& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

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Linus has a law degree now... (-1, Troll)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291858)

Good for Linus!! I didnt realize Linus had gotten a law degree now... This is kind of away from his core of expertise, but additional education is always good!!! I mean I would dont think it would not be wise for him to advise any company or person on such legal matters without significantly investigating the situation before hand... :)

Same stuff, different day. (0, Troll)

jskline (301574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291894)

I still will NEVER EVER buy a Zune, I've almost completely exited from Office now in favor of Open Office, and XP is all that is left and won't be upgraded. Will NOT go Vista;... EVER.

Two laptops. One legacy XP Pro, and the other Ubuntu with all my code development stuff and electronics software on it.

Hay; Ballmer!... Shut your fart mouth ass up. Unless you got it you can't bring it. If you got it, bring it. Otherwise; shut the hell up and go back into your hole you call an office.

Microsoft actions and policy speak otherwise (4, Interesting)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292006)

Microsoft's corporate leadership used to speak out against patents. This was when they were getting sued, and patents were a ticking bomb in their "embrace, extend, extinguish" tactics. Patents kept them from being able to "borrow" from successful innovators to improve their product line with impunity.

So, after a few losses, they took to using their capital reserves to purchase such companies outright while they were small, as their success and huge capital reserves made them a lawsuit target. This was a necessary change in policy that came with the success of having all that captial to poach. It's why their getting rid of some of that capital: It exposes them to larger judgments.

Those days are over. Linus would be right in the 90's, but no longer.

Now Microsoft is in a bunker mentality, using patents to defend a near monopoly in market share. They have completely changed their tune, because what they now need to do is slow down inevitable attrition of that market share. In much of their market, there is no where else to go, and no way to grow revenue except by raising prices. Witness the pricing on Windows Vista.

Don't think for a second that they won't sue. They've already got expert patent firms on retainer from defending themselves. Certainly, they started the ball rolling with SCO, but that was just testing the waters. They will pursue this to their greatest possible advantage, regardless of whether the claims are reasonable, because they're already paying the lawyers.

If you consider a multi-million dollar lawsuit for marketing purposes "just marketing," then you've never defended yourself in a court of law.

Linus is wrong. He's thinking about the "hungry" Microsoft of the 90's. We're in the chair chucking, f-ing burying, Ballmer days now, and Microsoft is no longer an upstart. They run the desktop software industry, like the mafia ran Chicago. There's no reason, save the massive loss of judicial mind-share in various anti-trust cases, that they can't pursue legal options regarding their rapidly growing patent portfolio. Microsoft is, among other things, becoming a patent troll, and there's no reason to believe that they can't buy something actionable, if they don't already have it.

SCO was just an unsuccessful test case. Look out.


Re:Microsoft actions and policy speak otherwise (2, Insightful)

Samster33 (1197779) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292828)

I'm thinking that IBM and many other FOSS friendly companies probably hold a huge number of software patents as well. Perhaps (and this is just a theory) Microsoft knows that if they actually did anything more specific than spread FUD, there would be a patent war to end all patent wars.

Re:Microsoft actions and policy speak otherwise (2, Insightful)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22293758)

Very astute. That sort of patent M.A.D. is taught in patent law classes as a reason why patent laws work. It is a basic belief that large producers, specifically manufacturers, have not and would not sue each other for exactly that reason.

Unfortunately, this only works when there are hard assets at hand, and therefore plants to close and equipment that must lie dormant while a suit is pending.

That disincentive is much smaller when all you are producing is ideas, because the manufacturing hit is much lower. It is a compelling reason why software patents are a bad idea.


SCO as a test case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22294268)

The spectacular failure of SCO casts doubt on the concept of patent war by proxy. If there is to be a next time, MS will have to put their own assets at risk. The people willing to put their companies at risk for MS are automatically unsuitable partners for this type of work. Anyone smart enough to run a successful business is not going to play the role of a kamikaze. That leaves desperados like Darl; slim pickings in a war against OSS.

Industry forces are aligned against MS, just as the same forces were once aligned in ancient times against IBM and to a lesser extent DEC. Anything MS does with patents will draw sniper fire from opponents such as IBM or Google. You might even see IBM or Google wage their own proxy war by defending cases where they have no direct involvement. If MS can funnel money to SCO for the purpose of suing MS competitors, wouldn't it be equally viable for IBM to turn the tables and fund the defense of MS patent defendants?

Not aggressive (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292048)

IMHO Microsoft's "defense" of it's patents (if any) has been anything but aggressive. Yes, they've made a lot of hot air in the media about how Linux might infringe some unknown patents they claim to hold. But if they were being aggressive, they wouldn't be making such a nebulous claim. They'd be sending letters demanding royalties and quoting patent numbers, and filing infringement cases when violators refused to pay. They haven't. They haven't even mentioned a single patent number they claim Linux infringes. And not without cause. My recollection is that Microsoft themselves said openly that the reason they aren't claiming specific patent numbers is that they're afraid if they got that specific that the open-source community would be successful in having those patents invalidated.

If you don't have a patent number, you don't have a patent. I'll consider Microsoft to be aggressively defending their patents against infringement in Linux when they start citing specific patent numbers.

Re:Not aggressive (2, Insightful)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292528)

They'd be sending letters demanding royalties and quoting patent numbers, and filing infringement cases when violators refused to pay. They haven't.

They're doing something much smarter. They're approaching Linux distros and companies that use Linux in their products and making slimy threats behind closed doors. SCO taught them that a loud public strategy like the one you mention arouses both the community and targets better able to defend themselves. And what do you know, that defense reaction turned out to be formidable. SCO certainly didn't succeed in trying the case in the tech press. So they are sizing up and approaching softer targets one by one and we don't hear about it until the press release from yet another company that made a "patent covenant" with MS.

All hail Linus ... blah blah blah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22292086)

Linus is a cunt, he's always mouthing off about stuff he doesn't know anything about. Who gives a shit about his opinions? It might as well be me babbling away to the media.

Riiiiight... (-1, Offtopic)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292202)

And Hitler would never invade Poland, Islamic fascists would never try to attack US soil, and there's no way in hell it's a bad idea to help a rich nigerian oil tycoon launder some money through your bank account.

War on two fronts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22292306)

Mr. Balmer now has war on two fronts. The patents are part of the war on Open Source and Linux. The Yahoo deal is war on Google. This doesn't sound wise. War on two fronts has rarely worked out well for the party with both fronts. Perhaps Microsoft's management has over-reached itself. Were I an ardent investor, I'd be watching carefully. Maybe, there is a short sell of Microsoft in the near future. Also, maybe the two front war will overload Microsoft to the point of reducing their position in the PC software market, to a position more appropriate to the caliber of Microsoft's products.

In other news... (0, Troll)

HairyNevus (992803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292518)

Linus uses speculations against Microsoft as PR for his own damn self, and slashdot gobbles it all up. Also, Microsoft just appointed Torvalds as "guy-who-would-totally-know-about-our-patents". True story.

Linux infringes on patents (1)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22292972)

No, I don't know which patents, there are simply too many of them out there. But given the shear number of patents approved for so many stupid things, odds are pretty high (I'd guess 99%) that Linux infringes on at least a few of them. And the odds aren't all that bad the MS is behind a few of those patents.

In the same measure, I'd guess that 99% of the US population has violated at least one law in the past year. And a fair number of you violated a few laws just going to work this morning.

So the most likely result of all of this is that it's all just a bunch of marketing FUD and nothing will come of it. MS has much more to lose by going public with the patent list (backlash, prior art discovery, etc).

They are both bluffing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22293486)

Linus is bluffing :

First, let's consider something more than just the kernel.
As an example http://www.google.com/patents?id=aCUfAAAAEBAJ&dq=5757371 [google.com] .. do KDE or Gnome qualify as violations ? Is it a stretch ? What would an tech-unsavvy judge against the best lawyers of the world do ? What is Linux on the desktop without KDE/Gnome ?

Also.. and the real question is... is it possible to write ANY non-trivial piece of software and not violate an existing patent ?

But M$ is bluffing too :

Patent war is like the cold war. If they strike on Linux, IBM, Sun and more will strike on M$. They will never strike Linux with patent sues because they will be sued to blood by other companies. Instilling fear is the most they can do.

My 2 cents.

I'm confused (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22294446)

For years, people arguing against software patents have said that because of numerous, ridiculous, patents held by companies such as Microsoft, it is almost impossible to do anything significant without infringing. We need to reform the patent law, or projects like Linux will be impossible, yadda yadda yadda.

So now when Microsoft says that they have patents and they think Linux infringes, suddenly we don't think they have any patents that cover parts of Linux? They are bluffing? It is just FUD to advance their agenda?

Does that mean before this, when it was free software people claiming there WERE such patents, THEY were FUDing? What is going on here?

It's not marketing (1)

pmontra (738736) | more than 6 years ago | (#22295044)

Ever seen a movie with somebody entering a shop and telling the manager he needs protection?
"Protection from what?" "Fires" "There are never been fires here" "There might be" "Are you a fireman or do you know somebody setting fires here?" "None of them" "So, why do I need your protection?" "To be sure there are no fires."
Substitute fires with legal action and you get a clearer idea of what this is all about, even if MS might be looking at it in a different way.
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