Microsoft Just Helped Linux (It’s True)

Yes, the headline is correct. How Microsoft just helped Linux to avoid painful lawsuits by making 60,000 of its patents open source.

It is a marked change in tactic for a company that vehemently opposed the Linux open-source approach in the past. It also shows how Microsoft is changing its image and reaching out to different groups of developers.

The announcement comes as part of Microsoft's move to join the Open Invention Network (OIN). The group looks to protect Linux from lawsuits.

OIN currently houses over 2,650 companies, including Google, IBM, Sony and Toyota. The licensing platform it manages allows developers to access OIN-owned patents and cross-licenses without worrying about paying royalties.  

While the move improves protection for Linux from patent trolls, it also speeds up development. It matters n a market environment that promotes agile development and faster time-to-market.

The move highlights the struggle by technology companies and cloud platform providers to lure and retain developers. It is no longer about the platform, but the ecosystem and developer community that matters.

The most significant change is Microsoft's attitude. Under Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer, such a move would be inconceivable. But now the company is focused on raising the profile of its cloud services under Microsoft Azure.

“We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents,” said Erich Andersen, corporate vice president, deputy general counsel, Microsoft in a blog

“For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs,” he added.

It is also not the first time Microsoft got cozy with Linux. Earlier this year, the company launched Azure Sphere, a Linux-based OS for internet of things (IoT) applications and its security. It also dabbled in Unix in the 1980 when it launched Xenix, licensed from AT&T, and which was subsequently discontinued.

Azure IP Advantage, launched two years ago, cemented the company’s pledge for open source support. It also joined Red Hat Software to apply “GPL v.3 ‘cure’ principles to GPL v. 2 code,”’ said Andersen.

Microsoft joined the Lot Network just before the OIN announcement. It is another organization that focuses on patent trolling.