TomTom 2: FOSS Copying SCO and Microsoft While Proving Steve Jobs Right - Page 2

Rob Enderle

FOSS Learning from SCO


SCO's aggressive litigation threats and actions mobilized the open source movement and created a backlash for the company that is near legendary. SCO threatened a large number of companies with litigation if they didn't follow rules that SCO dictated, which included sending SCO a check. One of SCO's big mistakes was going after huge national or multi-national companies -- which basically told them to piss off, wasting lots of cash it didn't have and not actually resulting in much licensing revenue.


SCO did this even though it was later clear it didn't really know how companies were using the technology. And it generally appeared doubtful, even if SCO had prevailed in the Novell and IBM cases, whether SCO could actually collect from the companies it initially targeted. For instance, Daimler Benz, one of the companies targeted, had evidently stopped using the code that SCO was concerned about years earlier.


FOSS leaders now seem to be going around saying that companies that have cross-licensed with Microsoft can't use Linux because they are in violation of the GPL, suggesting legal action will now result. Unlike SCO, they seem to be threatening small companies that make flash drives or consumer electronics (IBM, HP, Novell, Dell and most large companies that distribute Linux also cross-license with Microsoft). It sounds very similar to what SCO did, with the exception of avoiding going after large firms that can easily defend themselves.


So did they learn from SCO how to do it right? Or are they instead emulating Microsoft's bad behavior?


FOSS Emulating Microsoft


On the other hand, you could argue that FOSS leaders are now emulating Microsoft's bad years. Back when Bill Gates was still at the company, Microsoft threatened litigation against Linux broadly and yet never really took any major legal action. If you knew Gates' history, you would know why he was rabid about piracy, as that is what almost put Microsoft out of business when it was first formed. But his views were a bit out of step with the times. As a result, Microsoft was all bark and no bite and the open source folks wrote it off.


Now the FOSS leadership seems to be making broad statements about putting small Linux users out of business with the implication of legal action for violation of their licenses, even though it seems unlikely that FOSS can even afford the kind of litigation that this would require.


What I think is fascinating is that Microsoft's earlier actions may have actually accelerated Linux adoption because they focused attention on the platform, drawing support for it, and the threats weren't believed. FOSS could be vastly more credible at creating a Linux threat. In addition, the idea that they can dictate who a company can partner with, and how they are allowed to partner, is probably scary to many of these small businesses that aren't led by legal experts. It seems like Linux is starting to sound like some religions where you are free, but only so long as you agree with the leadership. It is interesting to note that while FOSS seems to be scaring folks with threats of litigation, Microsoft is offering indemnification. Fascinating contrast.


The market didn't like Microsoft's excessive control a few years ago. I doubt it will like FOSS's excessive control any better.

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