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In a move that's going to raise a lot of eyebrows, Microsoft has joined the Open Invention Network to 'protect Linux and other important open source workloads from patent assertions'.

For those who haven't heard of the OIN, their mission statement is quite a simple and honourable one "The Open Invention Network is a shared defensive patent pool with the mission to protect Linux.". To find out more about the OIN see here.

Hold the phone, this isn't gaming news?

Correct. However, this is still very interesting and extremely surprising from a company that has been pretty hostile to Linux in the past. It's the kind of move that could result in some big shifts in the entire industry.

We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents. For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs. 

Surprising is one word for it! Honestly, I'm in shock at this news. Does this mean we can firmly put the "Embrace, extend, and extinguish" phrase to rest and replace it with Embrace, extend, and protect? With Microsoft joining, they're bringing with them around 60,000 patents.

Moves like that, makes me seriously think about how Microsoft have changed, especially since their previous CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux "a cancer".

I think it also shows how far Linux has come as a platform for all things too, especially with Microsoft having a "Windows Subsystem for Linux" along with their support for running Linux on their Azure cloud computing platform.

What do you think to this?

24 Likes, Who?
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Arehandoro 11 October 2018 at 10:13 am UTC
We need time to decide whether this move will be beneficial or not for us as a community. I don't like it, but I'm just an individual not that knowledgeable so better keep my mouth shut for now.
mylka 11 October 2018 at 10:52 am UTC
mylkai dont think so, if i watch kids today. they dont care about PC/laptops anymore. they browse the web with their phone, they watch netflix with their phones, they listen to music with their phones, they play games on their phones
Most kids didn't care about PCs when I was a kid either. They had watches, gameboys, mp3 players, etc. Doesn't change the fact that we all used computers at/for school, most of us now use them at work and anyone would choose a monitor over a 5-inch screen for their home entertainment if they have the option. Kids were never the main demographic for desktop computers (well, most types of computers), but that doesn't mean they won't use them later. Hell, there are a lot of things kids don't care about that they will need later on. Their lack of interest hardly indicates the death of an industry.

imho thats wrong. they dont need computers, we dont need computers. we need SOFTWARE and as i said: this software will run on phones in the near future

so maybe the new generation doesnt adapt to PCs, but software adapts to the new generation
namiko 11 October 2018 at 11:27 am UTC
I'm still skeptical about Microsoft being a net good for Linux. As for the dreaded "three Es", there are a lot of signs that Microsoft is moving in on what was once considered FOSS "territory". Whether or not they mean well has yet to be seen over the long term. The new Linux kernel CoC is also concerning because it does seem to codify "niceness" and admin discretion in a way that could mean "I can kick you off the project for no reason (or for being offensive to anybody online ever)."

Call it conspiracy if you like, but when this particular CoC has made some projects devolve into infighting, I'm not obligated to say "yeah, everything's fine with Linux."

And no, I don't really want people to convince me otherwise about these worries, please don't try (I've already read the positive comments here on both the article and the CoC and made note of them). I've been burned too many times by too many people/projects in the past to let this kind of stuff go completely.

To get back on-topic a bit more: If Microsoft helps Linux, great, but a business with shareholders rarely stops saying "what's in it for me" and tries to do whatever possible to make sure they've made more money than the last quarter; sometimes they do it in a "nice" way, sometimes they do it in an asshole way.

It isn't exactly Microsoft that I'm innately suspect of, it's any publicly traded company. Good things in companies or companies themselves can fail because of shareholders getting too poor. (Glad Valve has stayed private...)

All we can do is wait and see... (EDIT: put an extra word in for clarity)

Last edited by namiko at 11 October 2018 at 11:28 am UTC
Nevertheless 11 October 2018 at 11:48 am UTC
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TheRiddickIf Microsoft really wanted to outdo themselves, they can use Linux as the backend for their next windows release, now that would be crazy, maybe make WINDOWS a desktop environment just like gnome/xfce/plasma5, that be pretty cool.

Mind in the clouds thoughts, I know...

It would have to be a DE that did all the bad stuff Windows 10 is supposed to do now. I wouldn't want it as much as don't want Windows 10.
Why would I want a Linux coming from Microsoft, when I can have a real one without MS spyware?

Nah "Windows Next" - with a compatibility modes in the form of wine/dosbox, that could be done today - hell it was done more or less 17 years ago ( Lindows )

And why you would want a Linux distro with the Microsoft stamp on it? Not for your self properly as It's hard to imagine it wouldn't come with half the OS in the form of proprietary binaries - but, a mac os like thing would mean more programs & games that works out of the box with Linux ;)

A guy can dream...

If we benefit from it as much as Darwin from Mac OS or BSD from Playstation OS, then I'm not sure it would be that great... Microsoft might start boasting around saying: "Hey, look, we love Linux, we actually made it better! Our Linux runs UWP Apps!"

Last edited by Nevertheless at 11 October 2018 at 11:49 am UTC
Nevertheless 11 October 2018 at 12:21 pm UTC
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TemplarGRPeople wondering why they would want a Linux based windows OS when they can have "the real thing", they need to look at android... Why use android on phones when you can use the real thing, linux itself?

At some point the vast majority of consumers need stability, quality assurance, eye candy, compatibility, the "it just works" mentality that Linux distros lack. Microsoft and other behemoths have the resources to ensure such a thing. It is the same thing Canonical has been trying for more than a decade with moderate success. Yet despite the fact that Ubuntu is very flawed as a distro, it still is the most widely used... Why not use the real thing (Debian) instead of Ubuntu or Mint?

Windows 10 has become a huge monstrosity of spaghetti code that is very hard to improve and maintain. Everytime they update something they even delete user files... It makes sense, most people responsible for large parts of Windows code have retired... The cost to develop and maintain Windows is on the rise while the profits are slim. The OS itself is fast becoming a liability for Microsoft, and is only useful for running their other more profitable stuff like Office, .Net, Azure, Xbox, etc.

Microsoft has already witnessed the inevitability of competing with opensource. Internet Explorer once ruled the internet with an iron grip when Netscape was opensourced to become Mozilla and Firefox... Alongside Chromium they utterly destroyed Microsoft's marketshare. Today IE and Edge marketshare is a joke...

So why keep Windows at all? Why not just port their profitable stuff on Linux, which is free software and the burden of development and maintainance falls on many companies/individuals and not just them? If you can't beat them, join them...

Obviously Microsoft will still keep a large part of the OS closed source, like Apple did with Macintosh and Darwin. And believe me, if they play their cards right, it will pay dividends to them because people will flock to Windows L(inux kernel) in droves...

Add the benefit of being better able to port their work on servers and mobile and you got a sweet deal for MS. It is a nobrainer.

Obviously it can't happen really soon. Remember Microsoft still has the upper hand on the Desktop and don't intend to just waste it. They will try to milk their Windows 10 dry first. But they need to prepare the next day.

And how you begin transitioning to Linux? First you need to make sure your compiler toolchain is up to snuff... Seeing as Linux already has one in place for C and C++, you just make sure your (ex) prioprietary framework and tools also work. Can you say .Net Core? Can you say opensourced Visual Studio? See where this is going?

If that happened we'd have to protect Linux from Microsoft once more. This time from within. They will start to influence kernel development more.. That's one big coocoo in our nest...
Nanobang 11 October 2018 at 12:35 pm UTC
All I know is that I slept a lot easier when Microsoft thought Linux was a "cancer."
Nevertheless 11 October 2018 at 12:48 pm UTC
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BeamboomI'm honestly surprised at many of the responses here. It looks like you haven't really been in touch with the IT world in at least ten years?

It's fair enough to be sceptical, I can totally relate to that, but over the last 5-6 years there's been significant policy changes in how Microsoft has approached open source in general and Linux in particular. So much so that it's made nonstop headlines in the IT press. Hence my surprise.

Their dedication is of a very wide nature and involves a lot of areas. Examples are aplenty: Linux version of Visual Studio Code (and a bloody good editor it is too) and MSSQL server, investment in time and money on the Linux Foundation, cooperation with both Canonical and Redhat on running their distros on Azure and Windows 10, change to supporting GIT over their own versioning system, I mean... I could go on and on. The list really is extensive. This is just how it is.

I'm an old man myself, and by God I tell you I've swore and cursed over their name many a times. I was there in the 90s and early 2000 when they did nothing but to inject and pollute every single open standard protocol on the whole god damn internet, shitty implementations where their friggin' trademark! Not to mention their CEOs and their attitude towards Linux.

But this is not the case today. Yes, they are a corporation and yes they have an agenda, but so do every other commercial company, also those who for a long time has proven to support Linux. Open source and corporations can coexist and benefit from each other - they have, for a very long time already. The Linux kernel would not have been what it is today had it not been for contributions from the big, commercial actors out there. Corporations have been depending on Linux for decades already - and Linux depend on them too.

There are no impenetrable walls between Linux and the corporate world, other than amongst evangelists and - yes I dare say it - fanatics.

It is only natural that Microsoft, maybe even a bit more than any other corporation, wants and needs a certain degree of control over everything they invest in. The more they depend on an investment, the more control they will want over it. So a strategic investment in Linux is not the problem, but what follows out of it is very uncertain...
I guess we have to watch their behaviour very closely, to get better views on their whole strategy. They might seem a lot friendlier than before, they might even release some free tools (that people can use to work on MS related things), but do they generally open up? Will they stop closing down gaming for example? We will have to see!

Last edited by Nevertheless at 11 October 2018 at 12:50 pm UTC
Imnotarobot 11 October 2018 at 1:30 pm UTC
Keep your friends close. Enemies even closer.
qhartman 11 October 2018 at 3:39 pm UTC
It looks like it includes their patents that affect Android and whatnot:

That means they will be losing a lot of revenue making this move. There's got to be something they are getting that's worth that dip. What is it?
PsynoKhi0 11 October 2018 at 4:21 pm UTC
There seems to be some misconceptions about the OIN membership.
Being a member means you pledge not to sue other OIN members over patents you contribute to the OIN pool. Both Google and Oracle are members, for example...
What's protected from patent litigation is furthermore defined as the Linux System.
BTW you can join the OIN as a physical person with 0 patent at no cost *hint hint*

So the broad claim of "protect[ing] Linux and open source" is a tad misleading... As with any PR dept (especially microsoft's), read between the lines and scrutinize, folks.

Now, as cynical as I can be, I still applaud the move, but am left with the same nagging "what's in it for them" feeling.
For one thing, it means that microsoft still believes in the legitimacy of software patents.

Personally I see the OIN the same way I see WINE/Proton: a currently unfortunate necessity yet still a stop-gap until something better comes along, instead of some kind of be-all, end-all silver bullet.
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