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Moonlight Patents, Fees, and Microsoft Incentives

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, Patents at 3:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Wrapping software patents in a binary blob

Pieces of the puzzle are beginning to come together. Novell rarely talks about its agreement with Microsoft regarding Moonlight/Silverlight. Some early pressure that came from this Web site (via Matt Asay) revealed that Novell maintains some sort of exclusive control of Moonlight. In that regard, the freedom to (re)distribute software is jeopardised and one depends on Novell as the Greek bearing gifts.

A few new details have just come out from the conference which Mary Jo Foley apparently attends.

As part of Novell’s arrangement with Microsoft, Microsoft also is providing financial incentives to Novell to get Silverlight on Linux, de Icaza added.

“Microsoft agreed to pay all the licensing and patent fees for redistributing the (Silverlight) codecs,” de Icaza said. “We don’t have the Microsoft codecs for Silverlight now. So we can not yet do streaming. … But it’s coming.”

Mono is beginning to look more fun, isn’t it? There are several points to be made here:

  1. Microsoft is actually paying Novell to mimic its own technology
  2. Moonlight, which makes use of Mono, involves patent fees
  3. Moonlight is already falling behind because Microsoft has not yet forwarded the proprietary codecs that it promised. Be reminded that de Icaza blogged on this issue and stressed that despite the openness of Moonlight, the codecs shall remain proprietary.

”Microsoft wants its competitors to play its own games so that it always remains the leader which sets the rules.“Sam Hiser views the situation differently, but Novell is helping Microsoft deform Linux and make it more like a ‘cheap Windows’, which is actually not so cheap in terms of cost, due to software patents. The whole concept of “Linux will win by capitalising on its own merits” goes straight down the toilet. Mono, Moonlight, and OOXML support/functionality in non-Microsoft products are just catch-ups. Such products are all bound to become second-class citizens [1, 2, 3] on a desktop/server that is no longer free (because Microsoft collects royalties).

Is this people’s vision of a path to the success of GNU/Linux? Can anyone truly foresee GNU/Linux laughing down at Microsoft with a stack that contains .NET, XAML, OOXML, REST, XPS, HD, AD, and CIFS? This is Microsoft’s turf. It is also what the company calls its “intellectual property”. Microsoft wants its competitors to play its own games so that it always remains the leader which sets the rules.

Patent protection expires

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  1. Sam Hiser said,

    December 7, 2007 at 9:46 am


    “… but Novell is helping Microsoft deform Linux and make it more like a ‘cheap Windows’, which is actually not so cheap in terms of cost, due to software patents. The whole concept of “Linux will win by capitalising on its own merits” goes straight down the toilet.”

    You have two thoughts here to which I’d like to respond.

    It is perhaps more accurate to say, “…helping Microsoft deform openSUSE & its enterprise siblings in the Novell family (SLED, SLES, etc.) …” If one accepts that fact, then that leaves Red Hat and Ubuntu for people to adopt if they are sensitive to potential compromises.

    GNU/Linux’s diversity makes it much harder to damage as a whole.

    Second thing is that I do see GNU/Linux playing to its strengths: Fluxbox & the diversity of window managers; its customizability; and the ultimate expression of its modular flexibility, OLPC. That a Novell can pursue the strategy of being like Windows, too, is another dimension of the shape-shifter, GNU/Linux, which reflects its strength.

    I make the point that the markets will tell us different things at different times across the adoption curve; and GNU/Linux has good game at each loci.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 7, 2007 at 12:15 pm


    A point you appear to be missing, however, is that Novell:

    1. helps Microsoft ‘sell’ OOXML to ISO
    2. helps Microsoft convince developers that Silverlight is cross platform

    Among other things…

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