Beware of Microsofties Bearing Gifts? Not This Time

Similarly, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who leads the Linux Kernel Device Driver Project and was instrumental in Microsoft's move, says, "The benefit of this [contribution] is any user who runs Linux as a client on top of Hyper-V will have a much faster Linux client." (He is also a fellow at Novell, which has a controversial open source partnership with Microsoft.)

Microsoft, says Protecode CEO Mahshad Koohgoli, is not acting from a position of strength. "Like any intelligent organization, Microsoft has recognized that it can not stubbornly continue to push its traditional model in a world that increasingly has options. Rather than doing an IBM-circa-late-seventies, it is cautiously experimenting with initiatives that take advantage of the powerful current of open source, without jeopardizing its well-entrenched business model."

Microsoft's Legal Threat Against Open Source Remains

"I'm trying to believe that Microsoft is doing something good. In this particular instance, there probably wasn't any strategic reason for it to not open-source the Linux stuff," says Dave Rosenberg, formerly CEO of MuleSource and now part of the founding team of RiverMuse. "However if Microsoft really wants to be a friend to Linux and open source, it could easily do so with a no-sue patent rule," he adds.

Earlier this year, Microsoft filed a lawsuit against TomTom, a maker of automobile-based navigation systems, saying the company had violated eight Microsoft patents. TomTom's devices run a version of the Linux OS. Microsoft charged that TomTom's Linux implementation violates three of its patents.

The suit was settled, but as Rosenberg points out, Microsoft has not said that it won't launch patent-related suits against other open source companies. Doing so would ease at least some of the distrust (not all of it paranoid, by any means) that still ripples through the open source community.

There's also a school of thought that sees Microsoft's move as a validation of open source. "We see the move by Microsoft to submit its device driver code to the Linux kernel as a validation of the open source development model and the GPLv2 license," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. "Even if a bit overdue, we applaud Microsoft for recognizing the value of collaboration in order to compete in today's IT market."

I'm not sure that Linux needed Pope Steve's imprimatur, but what the heck, this is a win for the good guys.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net.

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