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Speculation: Did Microsoft Try to Get Sun to Sue Linux? (Updated)

We already know (or should know by now) that Microsoft funded SCO's lawsuits against Linux users, at least in part. We also know that Microsoft tried to get the inventor and creator of Minix to sue Linus/Linux, essentially by persuading a writer to insert something into a book. Here is the gist of the story:

Andrew S Tanenbaum: A couple of years ago this guy called Ken Brown wrote a book saying that Linus stole Linux from me, from Minix, and therefore the intellectual property rights are unclear and therefore companies shouldn't use Linux because I might sue them.

It later came out that Microsoft had paid him to do this -- and I defended Linus. I wrote on my Web site saying that this guy Brown came through, visited me and I gave him the [correct] story.


This one story has a happy ending (except for Microsoft, which was caught red-handed).

Today, Pamela Jones (of Groklaw) has a little insight. Based on Jonathan Schwarz's blog, she suspects that Microsoft may have tried to encourage Sun to sue Linux (the infamous 'proxy manoeuvre'). Here is what Jonathan says...

Years back, Sun was under pressure in the market.

[...]

With business down and customers leaving, we had more than a few choices at our disposal. We were invited by one company to sue the beneficiaries of open source. We declined. We could join another and sue our customers. That seemed suicidal.


Notice that here you have the same dilemma that Microsoft (maybe even Novell) is now facing. Can they scrutinise their own customers? In any event, here is Pamela's take, which relates to what got this impulsive post started.

PJ: This is interesting in its own right, but my paralegal hat on, I am also highlighting it for anyone thinking about an antitrust lawsuit someday. I'm wondering if Microsoft tried to get Sun to sue Linux end users. I don't know if that is what he is alluding to here, but if I were in discovery, I'd surely investigate that possibility, as it could help show a pattern of using, or trying to use, surrogates to misuse litigation as an anticompetitive weapon.


Might Microsoft be pulling the same tricks in its fight against Google? It sure looks like it.

After a government- and monopoly-inspired period in which Microsoft had to pretend to be a gentle force for global good, the company is being forced to return to its ruthless roots. Ironically, it is doing this in part by decrying the unfair practices of a competitor and shamelessly sucking up to the Establishment.


As you may recall, Microsoft urged companies to sue Google over its YouTube content. Later on, Microsoft closed its YouTube equivalent (Soapbox) to subscribers because it had encountered and suffered from the same issues that earlier it decried. Need we even mention Microsoft's attempt to shoot down the DoubleClick acquisition? Need we repeat Microsoft's argument that Google is a monopoly? Where does hypocrisy begin and where does it end?

Update: The Register concurs and reaches similar speculations. It does not go quite so far however.

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