The Decades Negatives for Open Source

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-02-08 Print this article Print

Some of the less stellar events over the past decade were the SCO lawsuit and Microsoft's apparent belief that software patents were the Achilles heel of free software, he said. "SCO is toast. Good riddance. However, many in our community have been damaged by SCO's allegations and will never be compensated," Perens said.

Last May, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, claimed that free and open-source technologies violated 235 Microsoft patents, with the Linux kernel running afoul of 42, the Linux GUIs infringing another 65, the Open Office suite of programs infringing 45 more, e-mail programs infringing 15, and other assorted free and open-source programs allegedly infringing 68.

As such, Microsoft remains problematic, a bastion of the old way of thinking about software and the epitome of the old school of dirty corporate fighting, Perens said.

Perens said Microsoft's current strategy is "to poison us with money, most recently by making patent agreements with a number of Linux distributions, which go against the spirit of the software licenses used by our developers, and were perhaps intended to dissuade developers from contributing their work." He noted that these attempts at patent-based FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) did not seem to be working.

While Microsoft's potential acquisition of Yahoo for $44.6 billion could curtail or corrupt some of Yahoo's involvements in open-source communities and in partially open-source products like Zimbra, the "buy-the-loser strategy could potentially suck up a large part of its ample cash while leaving it with the loser," Perens said.

"So, you can see that the future will present its challenges for open source. We could never have forecast how big we would become during Decade Zero, but we've built tremendous strength, to the point that we can consider much larger tasks. Join us now as we enter Decade One," he said.

The coming decade will see big rule changes regarding software patenting, with open source, proprietary software and content providers all taking the same side together to make the world a bit safer, Perens said, noting that he also expects Microsoft to buy a movie studio and a music company and move more into content.

There will also be a lot of blur between the desktop of today and the embedded systems of tomorrow, with Linux a big player on those embedded systems, he told eWEEK.

"Also, expect to see the rise of a next-generation kernel that is open source, but not based on any of the things around today," Perens said.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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