Free software is great, and corporate America [And real people] loves it. It’s often high-quality stuff that can be downloaded free off the Internet and then copied at will. It’s versatile – it can be customized to perform almost any large-scale computing task – and it’s blessedly crash-resistant.A broad community of developers,from individuals to large companies like IBM, is constantly working
toimprove it and introduce new features. No wonder the business world has embraced it so enthusiastically: More than half the companies in the Fortune 500 are thought to be using the free operating system Linux in their data centers. But now there’s a shadow hanging over Linux and other free software, and it’s being cast by Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500).The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsomecompetitors like Google (Charts, Fortune 500), Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won’t be free anymore. [emphasis added]
Anyone who has used Microsoft for any great length of time knows that this is an absurd claim. Open Source software works better than Microsoft, across the board, not because the developers are hacking Microsoft’s patents but because they’re taking Microsoft’s half baked ideas and making them work.
Here’s a better idea: Microsoft subsidizes Linux and Mozilla, ensuring that they get their name associated with products that work. They won’t make any more money off the top, but they’ll at least build up good will among users, who for once, will see Microsoft’s name on a piece of software that functions as advertised. I know, I might as well have suggested that Microsoft subsidize research into creating flying monkeys.