Just when you thought Microsoft wanted to distance itself from the idea that it was a gigantic, evil, monopolizing corporation, it goes after the little guy. Not just any particular little guy either. Microsoft alleges that open-source software such as Linux and OpenOffice violate, in total, 235 of their patents. The Linux kernel is apparently responsible for 42 patent infringements and OpenOffice violates 45.
Although no one is quite sure what Microsoft is planning on doing about all this, if they do decide they want royalties for programs such as the various incarnations of Linux, OpenOffice and other open source programs, this would most certainly mean that the infringing free software would no longer be…well, free. This could mean a very big legal battle since there are plenty of giant companies around the world that use Linux on a daily basis. Microsoft is huge but so is Wal-Mart.
This could be a reaction to the ever increasing threat that Microsoft is facing from Google. Along with the rumors that Microsoft wants to purchase Yahoo, this is probably another way for the software giant to attempt to regain undisputed supremacy. Of course, Microsoft says this is, in fact, a matter of principle and not about the money. An article in Fortune quoted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as saying:
“We live in a world where we honor, and support the honoring of, intellectual property,” says Ballmer in an interview. FOSS patrons are going to have to “play by the same rules as the rest of the business,” he insists. “What’s fair is fair.”
This can’t be favorable for Microsoft in terms of publicity. It almost seems like the same thing the RIAA/MPAA pulled and let’s not forget how much we all love the RIAA!