Few things are more dangerous than a wild animal that gets cornered and can't find a way to escape. Does the same truism apply to the world's largest software company?
Few things are more dangerous than a wild animal that gets
cornered and can't find a way to escape. Does the same truism
apply to the world's largest software company?
I'm referring, of course, to Microsoft. In a Securities and
Exchange Commission 10-K filing this week, the company stated
that it considers the open-source development model to be a major
threat to its long-term earnings potential. Microsoft is
particularly worried about its server software and development
tools, both of which look to be increasingly vulnerable to
10-K reports are pessimistic by nature; they provide important
legal cover if a company's earnings plummet and angry
shareholders decide to sue. Yet there is almost always a kernel
of truth under all of that pumped-up pessimism, and it certainly
seems that Microsoft executives believe open-source software
represents a mortal threat to the company's future.
Redmond has more than a few weapons at its disposal to fight
back, including the company's massive intellectual property
portfolio. We've seen growing concern among open-source
developers over Microsoft's ability to wreak havoc with its
software patents, some of which could target key open-source
projects such as Apache, Samba and Mono. There has also been a
lot of debate over just how far Microsoft will go--or could
go--with intellectual property litigation, which carries almost
as many potential risks as rewards.
If this week's 10-K filing is a fair reflection of Microsoft's
attitude, however, then the stakes in this game are much higher
than they were before. If Microsoft executives decide that the
open-source development model truly represents a life-or-death
threat, then developers and software users alike may soon look
back on this period as the calm before the storm.
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