CEOs this week: who can lie the best?

This week saw a cornucopia of disinformation from the big software companies. We started out with Steve Ballmer of Microsoft claiming that Linux violated 235 patents held by Microsoft. People soon pointed out that the same argument had been used in 2004, and that the original author of the study originating the claim had concluded that it did not pose any great threat of litigation. Finally, one commenter surmised that the reason Microsoft had revived the abandoned initiative now was because it wished to disrupt the Red Hat Summit and the Open Source Business Conference, and force Red Hat to sign an agreement similar to Novell’s. However, it all came to nothing when Eben Moglen pointed out that the GPLv3 contained terms (“the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it”) that could be used to indemnify all Linux users when the GPLv3 comes into force. Since the vouchers that Novell is now handing out to its Linux customers, intended to indemnify them against patent litigation and covered by an appropriate agreement with Microsoft, have no expiration date, Linux is likely to soon be free of all patent violation problems. The vouchers can be handed in after GPLv3 is used across large parts of Novell’s Linux distro, and so can entirely absolve Linux of any existing violations of patents – although new code could bring new vulnerability! Nonetheless I heartily congratulate the people who are queueing up to get that little bit of fame, and be the first to get sued by Microsoft. Thanks for bringing the humour back, guys!

Soon after the news broke of Microsoft’s patent litigation threat, Jonathan Schwartz of Sun wrote a blog entry that outlined his company’s strategy, including a bit of history about how one company had approached them to see if they were interested in suing their users for patent violations. Some thought the unnamed company was likely to have been Microsoft. However, in the same blog entry, Schwartz also claimed Sun had written more than 25% of code in a typical Linux distribution – a false claim, as is clear from his source (see Figure 28 on page 50).

So here we go, another week of CEOs lying through their teeth, and the consumers keeping their head above the FUD. Is Steve Jobs really the only genuine guy out there?

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