Who Wins the MS/Linux Patent War?

Today Microsoft declared open warfare on Open Source Software, particularly on Linux. Microsoft claims that Linux violates 235 patents Microsoft holds, although it refuses to tell exactly which patents are infringed or which portions of the Linux Kernel or other programs in the Linux stack do the infringing. But that’s not the point of this post, I’ll leave it to others to determine if Microsoft’s claims are specious or credible, what I’m interested in is who wins over the medium term.

In the long term I am confident that Open Source will prevail, but in the short to medium term uptake of OSS may well be reduced while Microsoft adoption will not be enhanced. So what will people be deploying?

Consider the following:

-In 2004 Sun and Microsoft signed a wide ranging agreement that settled ongoing litigation and cross-licensed various technologies, so theoretically Sun software is immune to charges of patent infringement from Microsoft.

-Solaris 10, in binary form, is free to use for any and all purposes. You can download it today and install it on a production server tonight. Sun will even give you a license.

-Sun is in the process of making Solaris open source. Check out the progress at Open Solaris or even download a Solaris “distribution”.

-The pricing for supported Solaris on x86 is comparable to or better than supported RHEL. So you can run unsupported Solaris (think CentOS) or supported Solaris (RHEL) at about the same price.

So now imagine that you are a CIO who likes open source, particularly cheap to free server software that can do powerful things, but you’d rather sit out the Linux – Microsoft slug fest. I’ve never installed or used Solaris, not even once, but I’m considering it.