Microsoft and Amazon agree... what? And is it bad for Linux?

Microsoft is crowing that Amazon has paid money in a patent cross-licensing agreement. Microsoft's statement calls out Amazon's use of Linux, which seems to have got bloggers' panties in a bunch. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers argue about its significance.

By Richi Jennings. February 24, 2010.


Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention more Error'd...     Todd Bishop reports from Seattle:

Microsoft and have ... given each company a license to the other's patent portfolio. ... One practical effect of such cross-licensing deals, as they're known, is to head off potential patent disputes. In that way, the agreement amounts to a peace accord.


[But] the deal could raise eyebrows ... if it's interpreted as Amazon implicitly endorsing Microsoft's claims that ... Linux and other open-source technologies violate more than 200 of its patents. ... Amazon declined to comment.

Sounds like that's exactly how Kelly Fiveash interprets it:

The financial tie-up ... is the latest in a series of agreements Microsoft has struck with vendors that use Linux in their products. ... Amazon will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of cash, presumably to prevent the Windows and Office vendor from accusing the retailer of infringing its patents.

As does a breathless Richard Waters:

This amounts to a major endorsement of Microsoft’s claims over some of the core IP in Linux. ... [But] the announcement was short on detail. And that is sure to bring accusations that the software company is once again using FUD. ... The Amazon arrangement looks ... significant given Amazon’s massive data-centres.

But the Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin asks us to move along:

Nothing to See Here ... Companies reach broad cross-license agreements all the time. ... Amazing how despite the “broad range of products and technology” covered in their cross license, Microsoft chose to focus on Linux and open source.


Most technology companies have invested heavily in patents and that a cross-licensing agreement is a non-news event. The fact that two entities with expensive stockpiles of outdated weapons felt the need to negotiate détente is not surprising.

But Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols jumps up and down:

What was Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO, thinking? ... Too bad Microsoft has never, ever been able to show that its patents cover anything to do with Linux. ... Microsoft's biggest lie. ... Only an idiot would believe them.


Unfortunately, for Linux and open-source software, fool companies like Amazon has brought into this FUD fantasy. ... Their lawyers clearly didn't do their due diligence. ... Zemlin ... may see the deal as a non-issue, but I disagree. [It's] the Microsoft camel getting its nose into the open-source tent.

And Adrian Kingsley-Hughes tries to comprehend the scale:

That's the clearest indication so far from Microsoft that if you use Linux-based servers, you own them money.


These settlements represent a revenue stream for Microsoft without the hassle of having to bring the courts into the picture. ... Microsoft seems unwilling to take the FOSS community head-on, probably because that ... would bring Microsoft face-to-face with IBM. A move best avoided.

But your humble blogwatcher just wishes everybody would just calm down:

Broad-brush patent swap agreements are routine, particularly between U.S. companies. ... If I were Microsoft's PR flacks, I'd be drafting the press release in such a way as to ... imply that Amazon agrees Microsoft's Linux patents have ... value.


That's exactly what MS did.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

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