In this fortune article Microsoft, yet again, threatens "Linux" with patent action. What's new about this? They're doing it themselves in public instead of hiding behind BayStar capital, SCO or through back-room dealing. This is mildly interesting, and here are my predictions around what will actually happen.
Or at least it will look that way. Microsoft'll bitch and moan to keep the news cycle up for about a year, while trying to strongarm companies into signing cross licensing agreements and such. Many will, many won't. Then when they think they have a critical mass, then they'll sue a company without a significant patent portfolio to sue back with. Then that company will lose.
This will take about 7 years.
So, my advice to people out there: Linux is so useful that Microsoft simply doesn't have the option of marginalizing it. It is simply too late for that. They very simply cannot compete with open source once it has taken hold. I wrote about this very topic in 2005, in Linux Journal, where I wrote:
The time to kill Linux was when it was a project with ten developers who lived on university stipends, not when it has thousands of connected developers and $14 billion in Linux-related sales (IDC's number for the year 2003, if you believe analysts). It was vulnerable when it was still a university project, not now when uncountable school districts are using it to reduce their dependence on the punitive cost structures of proprietary software. It was vulnerable when it was in use in a few countries by a few dozen users, not now when it is used by a few dozen countries to ensure their software sovereignty. In short, it was vulnerable when it meant nothing to a few, not now when it is central to the information age economies.
While I dislike linking to my own work (it seems a little weird to self refer), I do so now to show that this is not a new thing, just a new thing to have happen in the public. They have been threatening companies for years for using Linux. In fact, I'd be willing to bet this whole thing is more about Redmond being upset that Dell, for once, can't be bullied into shipping Linux only in Denmark and instead has the cheek to ship desktop Linux in the United States. Dell ain't playing the game anymore.
Be strong, my friends. This will pass.