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Bill Gates Ridicules the GPL While Novell Mops Up with Software Patents

Movell and Nicrosoft



There is no substantial news here other than development of discussions, which seem to spread fairly fast from one blog to another blog and soon onto the press. To repeat criticisms from yesterday about Novell's announcement on China [1, 2], Novell and Microsoft keep spreading software patents to all parts of the world (never mind the legality), using SUSE Linux (Ballnux).

As another article to consider, there is this one from The Boston Globe.

Because Linux software is available free of charge, many Chinese businesses use it without paying. These companies miss out on the service, support, and upgrades that companies like Novell can provide. By encouraging Chinese firms to pay for Linux, Microsoft is helping Novell tap a valuable revenue stream.


It should really say "Microsoft tap a valuable revenue stream." Novell's Linux is actually Microsoft Linux in the sense that it's only a 'surrogate' that replaces Free Linuxes with one that Microsoft owns in the 'intellectual' sense. It's a trap.

Meanwhile, returning to the discussion about Microsoft taxoperability program [1, 2, 3, 4], Centrify stirred up some discussion with this analysis of Microsoft software patents.

The motivation for this blog entry is that given that so much has been written about Microsoft and patents vis a vis Linux and vis a vis the European Commission decision, I found it interesting that it seems no one in the industry has actually rolled up their sleeves and analyzed and published how many patents Microsoft actually holds within their Windows server protocols and what functional areas these patents cover. I think this is key information to know in order to help address Gartner Group's advice to open source developers to "not use Microsoft's [protocol] documentation unless you have rigorous processes to keep track of applicable patents." Having this supplementary information could also benefit commercial software developers by helping them better understand what Microsoft has to offer protocol-wise and what they potentially may need (or may not need) to license from Microsoft.


This soon got the attention of ZDNet's Between the Lines and the Microsoft Blog. What we see here is probably increased pressure by staged introduction of clues. Microsoft hopes not only to replace all those 'nasty' Linuxes that Microsoft does not control and or make money from, but it also hopes to set legal traps for them.

Where does that leave Novell? On Microsoft's side, of course, with a frontal assault on the Freedom of software (not the same as Linux).

Quite appalling are some of the things which Gates said just a couple of days ago about open source, Free software and the GPL.

One thing Gates won't be leaving behind in retirement is his distaste for open source software. After one scientist asked if Gates would consider open source uses in health research, the man who built his $280 billion company on the power of intellectual property bristled.

"There's free software and then there’s open source," he suggested, noting that Microsoft gives away its software in developing countries. With open source software, on the other hand, "there is this thing called the GPL, which we disagree with."

Open source, he said, creates a license "so that nobody can ever improve the software," he claimed, bemoaning the squandered opportunity for jobs and business. (Yes, Linux fans, we're aware of how distorted this definition is.) He went back to the analogy of pharmaceuticals: "I think if you invent drugs, you should be able to charge for them," he said, adding with a shrug: "That may seem radical."


it's very revealing that Microsoft tries to separate Free software (it tries to characterise it as gratis, i.e. zero cost, cheap, shoddy) from open source. Open source is, to Microsoft, mainly about visibility, but it wants it to be subjected to the same rules, including software patents. Where are those geniuses who defended Microsoft's seemingly-friendly approach towards the OSI?

“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio.”

--Marshall Phelps

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