Software patents here again: Amazon paying Microsoft for use of Linux

As published yesterday, Amazon has agreed to pay Microsoft for the right to use the technology that their Linux servers (and Kindle) allegedly contain. You might go “What?”, but sometimes the real world just surpasses parody plays in terms of absurdity.

Of course, we still have little information on whether Microsoft’s patent claims against Linux are valid or not, but apparently they aren’t entirely invalid either: With such a number of licensing deals (Microsoft says 600, although doesn’t specify if they are all related to the alleged Linux patents), at least the Redmondian claims have passed some scrutiny.

OK, this is FUD at its best. Microsoft may have a valid case, but by making it not too clear, they’ll reap more benefit than by openly challenging the Open Source+ community.

But it’s killing us

For Microsoft, that’s a great move. The current patent rules in the US give way for great ways to benefit from your innovation (and let’s face it, Microsoft is an innovator, even though much of the stuff it cranks out is less original). Given that Microsoft is a business, there’s no sense in passing moral judgment here. If Google’s array of patents allows them to tax for Bing use, they’ll do it at some point. Similarly, any of the large companies would be inclined to do this sort of things, sooner or later.

It’s the system that’s wrong, and this shows it more clearly than most other examples. I’m not sure why the discussion over the matter is so focused on Kindle; I’m more inclined to look at it as a cloud matter. I think Azure just gained a pricing advantage against EC2, and consequently, Windows gained a notch over Linux in the more general datacenter world.

My inner two halves, one being the law student and the other one being the incurable technocrat, are fighting over this. While I defend Microsoft’s right to use the system to its advantage, we’re creating a world where the implications of complex software patents can no longer be foreseen, making business too unpredictable.

Right now, this is where my inner combat is at: Microsoft shouldn’t have gained this advantage. While it may be right from an intellectual property perspective, it is way too destructive on the practical level of developing business and doing software.

February 24, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: General

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  1. Heikniemi Hardcoded » Microsoft, Joomla, Hadoop – why are they even together? - May 4, 2010

    […] This behooves Microsoft to form more horizontal partnerships and coexist with competing technologies. SharePoint may be a great commercial success, but it’s ridiculous to expect it to dominate the CMS market. Making tools like Joomla and Hadoop work on the Windows stack – be it on-premises or in the cloud – allows Microsoft to take a share of the money involved in these projects (without resorting to patent trickery). […]

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