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3/31/2009
03:47 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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The TomTom Dispute: No Bang

Kinda saw this one coming. TomTom and Microsoft have settled their whole dispute out of court -- leaving, as various pundits have observed, the whole MS-vs.-Linux issue still in legal limbo. That is, if there even is such an issue.



Kinda saw this one coming. TomTom and Microsoft have settled their whole dispute out of court -- leaving, as various pundits have observed, the whole MS-vs.-Linux issue still in legal limbo. That is, if there even is such an issue.

I'm going to stick my neck out and make an assertion: If at this point in time, with all that has happened both inside and outside Microsoft, Big Redmond still thinks it's a good idea to attack Linux-in-the-abstract ... sorry, no. I don't see it. Simply put, it makes no sense.

Most anyone could point to how Microsoft has been making steps towards the open source crowd -- and then point to just as many things that show they're either being two-faced or only able to commit themselves so much to the ideal of openness. But even with that level of ambivalence on their part, there's just that much less reason with every passing month for them to attempt that kind of political suicide.

The whole business with TomTom only seems to have involved Linux peripherally, anyway -- not something that formed a major part of their dispute with the company. (Is it really that tempting to see any lawsuit with the word "Linux" in it as an attack on Linux per se? Frankly, that sounds less like being vigilant about Linux and more like spoiling for a fight.)

The only way I can see a remotely fair chance that Microsoft (or anyone, really) could go to the mat with Linux and win is if something extremely unlikely, bordering on the impossible, takes place: if the copyrights and ownership for Linux pass out of the hands of Linus and into an organization or trust that assumes stewardship over it. That would make Linux into something centralized, and thus make it possible to mount that much more of a direct attack on it. Most anyone reading this is probably already laughing in disbelief at such a possibility, so there you go.

The major legal battles to be fought over Linux -- and open source generally -- are going to be of a different flavor. Example: legal enforcement of the GPL and similar licenses, which so far has been handled in the same manner as the TomTom incident (settling out of court), and may still be an open question.


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