Last time, on as the FOSS turns, …

Just as Linux and HPC on Linux clears the SCO debacle, new FUD from a familiar source. Yup, our buddy is up to his old tricks. Groklaw has the story.
Some snippets:

Because our battle is not sort of business model to business model. Our battle is product to product, Windows versus Linux, Office versus OpenOffice.

Well, yes. Of course. And in the court of public opinion, we see the response. Linux usage is increasing by the per unit data, which doesn’t count reloaded/remissioned systems (we have done several for customers recently, whereby their data will count in the windows column as that is what they shipped with, though they are running Linux now, and this is not counting in any column). This much is known.
What is also known appears to be that Vista is not exactly being well received.
So the market is speaking, loudly, and it seems to have spooked our “friend”.

The only other thing I would say that is probably germane is, we spend a lot of money, the rest of the commercial industry spends a lot of money on R & D. We’ve spent a lot of money licensing patents, when people come to us and say, “Hey, this commercial piece of software violates our patent, our intellectual propery, we’ll either get a court judgment or we’ll pay a big check. And we are going to — I think it is important that the Open Source products also have an obligation to participate in the same way in the intellectual property regime.

Sure. Lay out all the patents, and show where the infringement is, and we can talk. Until then, all that exists is bluster, hot air, and FUD.
Notice that this appears to be the same strategy that SCO tried. And failed with. Hmmmmmmmmm. I know I shouldn’t wonder aloud, but, well, I wonder if there is a connection. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
SCO has failed, and now MSFT ratchets up its FUD. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
Just too many coincidences here. Too many events that seem like they have some level of correlation between them.
Pamela points out in her commentary

I remember Sam Ramji in the video from the Olliance Think Tank in March, when he tried to make us believe that Ballmer understood that his patent saber rattling remarks in November were “counterproductive”. You just can’t trust what Microsoft folks tell you, no matter how nice they may seem or be. Because Ballmer hasn’t stopped. He’s still saying the same things. So did he *really* realize his remarks were counterproductive? Obviously not. So please don’t anyone tell me about the new Microsoft and how they are moving toward openness. They are moving toward destroying FOSS, although outsourcing some of it. That’s it.

I would put it slightly differently. Along comes a competitor you cannot crush with marketing, as it backfires. You can’t underprice them. They beat you on performance and pretty much mop the floor with you on security. They are easier to manage than your product, they are more cost effective to deploy than your product. They have mindshare, an installed base that the marketing numbers only touch on a fraction of, while the marketing numbers over-represent your product due to the bundling. How do you compete with them?
Well, you either a) try to out compete them with better security and performance (not happening) b) try to undercut them in price (hard to beat $0, but, well, ok), c) try to add new features (uh… spy ware and key loggers are not features), d) attack some of their major markets (HPC!), e) figure out how to work with them and offer your products and services atop the platform once you realize its not an ego issue and they really do have you beat.
I don’t expect “e” to happen, which is a shame as it is really their only option. Look at MSN, MSN now Live search. At some point in time it stops being “we can do a better job… eventually” and becomes a case of bruised corporate ego.
And this little upstart OS is giving them fits. Taking market share. Taking mind share.
With this said, their foray into HPC makes sense as a tactic in their larger strategy of competing head to head with Linux everywhere. The HPC effort doesn’t make sense as an independent P&L center (I had already analyzed that in the past), it won’t really drive revenue above the noise level for them.
So maybe the only option that MSFT has is wield their tactical nukes. Of course, as billions in dollars of business now goes into Linux and related systems and services, with some large patent portfolios behind them, this is an area where, well MSFT may wish to start treading carefully. If you claim a patent violation, the onus is on you to prove this. If you start by refusing to disclose the patent that is violated, you damage your own credibility in making such arguments, now and in the future. You alienate customers. You alienate partners. You make competitors think that they may need to activate their own tactical nukes.
Unless they are willing to put up patent numbers and indicate where the alleged infringement is (which is, not so curiously, common practice when you claim infringement), you can pretty much ignore them.
SCO going after customers has had a rather deleterious effect upon SCO revenue now. Imagine what MSFT going after customers would do. To MSFT.
MSFT people have told me time and again that they have a vision, and speaking to some of them, yes, the do have some cool ideas. Unfortunately, it appears that MSFT also has some baggage which, I am assuming, makes more than a few of them shake their heads in disgust in private. I commiserate. I had a similar management issue in the past.
MSFT, you can work with linux, your products can work on linux. All you have to do is to decide to make it so. And this large new market would be open to you. Imagine that.