Are Microsoft Shooting themselves in the foot over Linux Lawsuits
Microsoft, I feel are going through a transistonary period. They are currently facing many challenges on many fronts. For many years they had it all their own way, near enough complete domination of the home computer software market with no real competitors in sight. Then things started to change, slowly at first, but significantly. The Internet allowed people to use their computers in different ways, people were starting to communicate via their machines rather just using them to create reports and pie charts!
People talked, people listened and eventually Microsoft started to lose ground. New companies started to emerge, Google became the search engine of choice, Apple started to make comeback - the Internet became a place of opportunity. User communities were springing up all over the place, as were developers who now had a platform to showcase their software to like minded individuals, which brings me to my next point - Linux.
Linux is a distribution based piece of software that runs on personal computers. It is an operating system created by Linus Torvalds and when it was first released the source code was freely available to anyone who wanted it, as long as they were prepared to release their changes back into the community. Distributions sprang up, some more popular than others, some have now gone onto become commercial successes (Red Hat being one of them), which is what is causing Microsoft to ruffle it's feathers.
It seems that Microsoft is claiming that a number of Linux distributions are infringing their patents and are threatening the companies that use them with legal action. One major sticking point is that Microsoft is failing to mention which ones they are! It seems MS are hoping the threat alone will stop companies using Linux OS software in their products or face the possibility of huge fines, the Dutch company Tom-Tom being one of the more high profile cases.
Take a look at these points,
1. The guys who work on the Linux software are extremely clever and seasoned developers and they have huge amounts of people working on the code, far more than Microsoft could ever employ. If MS were to ever actually state the actual infringements and if there was a genuine case of patent infringement, the code would be rewritten by the developers in a matter of moments and released for download.
2. Microsoft has had the lion's share of the home computer market for a long, long time and a little competition never hurt anyone. They now have multiple competitors: Linux, Apple and what was the result, ms release their best ever operating system with Windows 7. It seems the competition did them some good, compared to the normally buggy releases that take years to become what they should have been at release date.
3. The vast majority of people like to fair play and Microsoft's actions are anything but. They are purposefully trying to stifle the competition they are facing from Linux. I know they are trying to protect their future, but this should be done through innovation and product development(see my points below). If Microsoft continue down this route the only they will stifle is the growth of their reputation. Take a look at Apple, their reputation has gone through the roof these last 10 years or so and it is mainly through them delivering products that satisfy upon release. When a new product is released, the die hard fans buy them in their droves and this is because the people that buy them know that the product will deliver and they never question if the product lives up to expectations. I'm not a massive Apple fan, I own a couple of products, namely an iPod and MacMini but only for application development. I have to say, they are both very good products and I have no doubt if I bought another Apple product it would be very good and I would be happy with it.
Microsoft have started to branch in to other markets and I consider them to be a company I trust (now) when it comes to delivering software and hardware. ASP.net is a great framework and runs on thousands of machines and servers. The Xbox, another great piece of Hardware that has been bought and used by millions of people. Microsoft are also building and developing 'Surface' a great looking product and if it lives up to its promise will help instill Microsoft in to the psyche of the millions of future users that are out there. It is these things that Microsoft should concentrate on, not slapping companies with lawsuits.