From: Open Source Stress:
"IBM has no intention of ever asserting its patent portfolio against the Linux kernel unless forced to," [ IBM senior VP ] Donofrio said.
Unless forced to?
Those Linux fans who are so certain that they need never fear IBM need to think about just what that means. Very simply, it means that IBM isn't completely sure that Darl McBride and Steve Ballmer aren't right about Linux and Open Source killing the profitability of software.
IBM is hoping that its dabbling in open source will both hurt Microsoft and help IBM sell its for-profit software and hardware. But what if its potential customers start getting skittish like the city of Munich apparently has? Well, that might "force" IBM to look at different options.
What kind of options might that be? IBM certainly wouldn't want to throw all this away - they need something to pitch against Microsoft, and I doubt they'd ever again make the mistake of crawling into bed with Gates and Ballmer. So how can you keep pushing Linux if it started losing momentum due to patent fears? Well, if you have the right patents, and could bully or cajole certain other holders (HP? SCO?) into seeing the Brave New World as you see it, maybe you make a bid to take control. Yes, I mean try to convince the courts that the only "legal" Linux version is yours and the people you license. Maybe SCO and HP etc. get a piece of the pie, and maybe even Microsoft plays along because it turns Linux into a more ordinary commercial competitor. Everybody's happy - well, not everybody, but all the big boys sure are.
Outrageous? Sure. Ridiculous? Maybe. But what else could Donofrio mean by "unless forced to" ? OK, yes, it's a cabal conspiracy theory made up out of almost thin air. And, so far anyway, there's no rising tide of Linux defections from patent fears. For every Fidelity (mentioned in the Information Week article as being negative about open source), there are probably a hundred little companies that nobody has ever heard of running free software. But - Fidelity's opinions will get more attention than Joe's Pizzeria, so if we start seeing too much of that noise from the wrong places, it's definitely not good.
This whacko future conspiracy theory may indeed be unimaginable. There must be a more reasonable explanation of what "unless forced to" means, right? Right?
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More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence