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Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu
Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 05:33 AM EDT

You have to take a look at Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's blog today. He has pledged the company will use its patents to defend Red Hat and Ubuntu. That's the headline, and I'm really happy to know that Sun's very extensive patent portfolio is available, just in case it is ever needed. You never know these days. And yes, I take that as a message in a bottle to Microsoft. But he says it in such an interesting and creative way, I think you'll be glad if you go and read the entire entry.

Whatever is happening at Sun, it is very welcome. Remember the bad old days, when Schwartz would say things like we see no place for Linux in the server space? I used to write articles comparing Sun to the community's toxic boyfriend. Well, it looks like this ambivalent boyfriend got some therapy, because he is talking a different talk.

In the blog entry, he compares the software industry with the newspaper industry, both of which produce creative content and both of which are undergoing a revolution away from tight control to user-generated materials. How can print media cope? They could, he points out, sue:

Now, traditional media could certainly take another tack. They could sue the new/technology media companies, claim they're stealing readers by violating patents held by traditional media. Imagine, "We patented text in columns! Classified ads in boxes! Captions on pictures! Headlines in large type!" But they'd be suing the community - the moral equivalent of suing subscribers - stepping over the line of editor, into the role of censor. And censoring free media is a particularly awkward plea for those that believe in freedom of the press

He analogizes to the software industry. He mentions that Sun in the old days exercised complete control over its software. I know many of you will agree with that. And then he writes about Linux:

And then our biggest competitor became, in the late 1990's, a product built by a company that aggregated and organized software from the open source community. They built little of their own, they relied on the software equivalent of community content, or Free and Open Source Software.

Could we have sued them? Sure. Sun has what I'd argue to be the single most valuable and focused patent portfolio on the web (and yes, we'd use it to defend Red Hat and Ubuntu, both). But suing the open source community would've been tantamount to a newspaper suing the authors of their letters to the editor. We would've been attempting to censor rather than embrace a free press. It might have felt good at the time, but it wouldn't have addressed the broader challenge - community content was becoming more interesting to our customers than our professional content.

Can you believe it? This is a new day at Sun, and he's trying to show Microsoft how to reinvent itself to benefit from the new, instead of trying to kill it off with patent infringement threats. And he's also letting them know there is more firepower against them than they realized. Will they listen? How would I know? I am the girl that called Sun a toxic boyfriend, and look at it now.

Mark Shuttleworth says a few words about Microsoft and patents today too:

They are a perfect target - they have deep pockets, and they have no option but to negotiate a settlement, or go to court, when confronted with a patent suit.

Microsoft already spends a huge amount of money on patent settlements (far, far more than they could hope to realise through patent licensing of their own portfolio). That number will creep upwards until itís abundantly clear to them that they would be better off if software patents were history.

In short, Microsoft will lose a patent trench war if they start one, and Iím sure that cooler heads in Redmond know that.


Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu | 186 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 06:05 AM EDT
Corrections, if any. Please, give context to make it easier to find.

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 06:07 AM EDT
Excellent. Sun is following through on their earlier decision to join the Free
World. I'll have to take a look at buying some of their kit.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Solaris vs Linux - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 11:19 AM EDT
Off Topic
Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 06:07 AM EDT
Off topic discussions here, please.

-- grouch

"People aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be."
--PJ, May 2007

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 06:44 AM EDT
I think Sun have "got it". They have always had vision "the
network is the computer", but they now seem to have seen the wider
implications of that:

a) Networks have lots of different "things" (devices, applications...)
on them which need to interoperate. Together with the developers and users this
forms an eco-system

b) It's the eco-system that is important rather than any particular product or
individual. So whether it's Linux or Solaris is not what matters, it is the
number of applications and individuals involved.

c) Protecting the Eco-system is protecting yourself.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 06:45 AM EDT
If he comes through on this pledge, if it needs be, then I would say:

Johnathan, I love you and I want to have your baby.

And I'm a dude, mind you! Imagine the amount of sheer gratitude...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu
Authored by: Hygrocybe on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 06:52 AM EDT
Wonderful news........little by little it seems as if the IT community as a
whole is beginning to attack software patents and in particular the way they are
used by Microsoft to prevent competition and innovation. I cannot help feel
that Microsoft is steadily being isolated and rejected, and the underlying cause
is its own business policies and ethics. What incredible irony.

Cooperation with sharing is much better than confrontation coupled with
"its mine, mine, mine unless you pay me" concepts.......but that is
still a lesson that Microsoft has to learn.

Even large firms eventually go under - they just take a little longer and it's
more painful to everybody because in their last death throes they try to hurt
others as much as possible. One could almost, but not quite, feel sorry for
Microsoft and its 20th century business ethics and practice. .

Blackbutt, Australia

[ Reply to This | # ]

The relative risk for Microsoft's own customers
Authored by: NZheretic on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 07:01 AM EDT
So due to the amount of patent leverage from SUN and IBM, in reality there is little risk of Microsoft suing end users deploying open source, and that includes customers of RedHat and Canonical. But what of the risk to Microsoft's own customers from continuing to use Microsoft's demonstratably more insecure products.

If a business or government body is not taking due care with the private information they hold on the public which could lead to identity theft then they are at risk of being sued.

1) Demand the business or government body to disclose copies of the anti virus logs for all of their desktops and laptops.
2) Generate a list of all the malware that
a) was cleaned up post infection ( the malware was actually executed and run ) AND
b) exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft applications and operating system prior to an update fix being made available by Microsoft.

In comparison to MacOSX or Linux based desktop, Microsoft's desktop operating systems and Microsoft's desktop applications face a disproportionally higher risk of being "infected" with hostile malware. Just relying on third party Antivirus software to prop up a Microsoft flagging security record in no way puts you any closer to the level of security that a switch to another vendors desktop platform can provide. ( Just updating to Vista is no guarantee of better security in comparison to another vendors platform )

A business or government body is not taking due care with the private information they hold on the public if they continue to use Microsoft desktop OS environments or Microsoft desktop applications. That is your credit card data, banking details , health care info and social security information. If switching to Linux or MacOSX based desktops would greatly reduce the risk of further intrusion why should not organizations be "encouraged" to make the move.

If anyones customers are at greater risk of being sued for using a product it is Microsoft's own customers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Am I Too Cynical? I Don't Know
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 07:21 AM EDT
Hey, everybody!

I agree that this is great news. But I can't shake a feeling I have....

One of the sad things I've observed in my short time in the FOSS community is
that companies don't support Linux because its good, but because they have run
out of other options. It's more like, why not support Linux now, we're in
trouble anyway.

And so I wonder about Sun. Unix doesn't seem to be dying, but I wonder if Sun
isn't doing so well, considering the splashes it's made with GPL'ing Java and
such. After all, they went out of their way to make a license specifically
incompatible with the GPL, and didn't they also do some kind of covenant with M$
not to sue users of StarOffice, but OpenOffice is not protected? There's also
an old Polish proverb that says, "Promises are easy to make if you don't
intend to keep them."

Am I right to be wary, or am I just hanging onto the past too much?

Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

When they stared into oblivion...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 07:31 AM EDT

No truer test of a company than staring into oblivion and seeing what demons stare back. What do they want the whole company's existence to have been for. Many companies before them have gone into the oblivion, some monoliths with hardly a ripple left behind (Digital and Excite@Home come to mind), while others like Netscape left a real legacy.

We see what the demons which overcame Caldera, a supposed Linux company, from staring into their oblivion.

The final chapter is not written on Novell, but they have certainly done some staring in the past and it hasn't ever been very pretty.

One could argue that Sun and IBM are both currently quite a ways away from the actual oblivion, but both companies have obviously done some real staring and it seems to have done them some good. While it would have been much better decades earlier, I am still happy with whatever good I see rising from their own staring and hope it helps stave off their own irrelevance.

Even Microsoft may some day be brought to stare and consider that they don't want it to have been completely about greed all these years, but they would like to advance the community of humanity from which they arose.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I thought Microsoft
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 08:12 AM EDT
When I read "And then our biggest competitor became, [...] that aggregated
and organized software from the open source community. They built little of
their own, they relied on the software. They built little of their own,
[...]" I immediately thought "That's Microsoft". But Microsoft
didn't come up in the late 1990s. For the rest, it fits them perfectly.
Especially the "built little of their own" part and the
"aggragated software from the open source community" part.

[ Reply to This | # ]

is this possible?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 08:16 AM EDT
Didn't Sun and M$ agree to not sue each other over patents a few years ago?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Good for Sun
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 08:20 AM EDT

Forget history. Here and now, Sun is one of the Good Guys. I wish them every success.

Now, if only they'd make bash the default shell on Solaris ... :-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

One little problem
Authored by: overshoot on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 08:31 AM EDT
Sun, like Novell, has already entered into a patent cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft. Therefore, like Novell's earlier pledge to use its patents to defend Linux, Sun's has a qualifier:

... to defend Linux against attacks [1] ...

[1] Except those from the following list

  • Microsoft
  • ...

IMHO that (well, and having a partner in FUD) was the real purpose of the MS/Novell deal: to neuter Novell's patent pledge.

[ Reply to This | # ]

And what about Debian, for example?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 09:06 AM EDT
The Sun's statement is weird.

Why not just say they're going to use their portfolio to protect GNU/Linux
distributions? Why limit it only to RedHat and Ubuntu? Isn't Debian used as the
base for Ubuntu?

Weird. Sounds like there's some agenda behind Sun's good will.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newton's Third Law of Motion
Authored by: Prototrm on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 09:18 AM EDT
I hope you will all excuse me while I completely geek out on this one. Must be
something in the orange juice I had this morning!

It always amuses me to see people ignore the fact that human interaction has to
obey the same laws of physics as the rest of the universe.

Newton's third law, the one about every action having a reaction, is
particularly important to "human physics". As the science fiction
writer, Isaac Asimov observed when he created the science of
"Psychohistory" for his Foundation series, if your smart enough,
patient enough, and able to collect enough data, then you should be able to
predict the probable reaction of people to any specific event.

And, as long as the vast majority of the population is completely clueless, it
ought to be possible to manipulate the outcome to whatever you desire.

I'm neither smart enough nor well informed enough to make this sort of
prediction, but I get this nagging feeling looking at all this in hindsight that
*someone* should have seen this sort of backlash coming.

If memory serves, Shuttleworth also predicts that Microsoft will eventually join
the anti-patent forces. I don't know. Much as I like the idea, it still sounds
like the Klingons joining Star Trek's Federation of Planets.

Oh, wait.

Well, I *still* don't trust
Kling<DEL><DEL><DEL><DEL><DEL> Microsoft

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the
exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."

[ Reply to This | # ]

Intellectual Ventures
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 09:25 AM EDT
My real fear is that Intellectual Ventures is a Microsoft creation that will
allow it to start a patent war by proxy and thus remain immune to patent counter

Nathan Myrvoldt came from Microsoft and I think there is significant Microsoft
funding behind Intellectual Ventures.

After all Microsoft used SCO as a proxy in their copyright attack.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Sun's Schwartz Pledges to Use Patents to Protect Red Hat and Ubuntu
Authored by: tredman on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 10:01 AM EDT
Actually, to be perfectly fair, I've been of the opinion that Schwartz was
always a fan of open source and free software. Sun had a recent history of
being a little schizophrenic with it's stance on F/OSS, and I don't think Sun
really became an ally until Schwartz grabbed a hold of the reins just recently.
Before that, there seemed to be a battle raging within upper management; a
battle that couldn't be resolved until McNealy had stepped down and Jonathan
took over.

I also think it was a sign of things to come when Sun's old school guy (McNealy)
turned over the reigns to the young long-hair (Schwartz). In my mind, it seemed
to be a turning point in the attitude of the company, and so far, with this
latest announcement, the open sourcing of Java, et al, it seems to actually be
coming to fruition.

Sun has a history of being a friend to the ideals of F/OSS. It's good to see
them going back to their roots.

"I drank what?" - Socrates, 399 BCE

[ Reply to This | # ]

Cooler Heads
Authored by: MplsBrian on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 10:12 AM EDT
Mark Shuttleworth wrote
"In short, Microsoft will lose a patent trench war if they start one, and
Iím sure that cooler heads in Redmond know that."

Hmmm... Would it be too Machiavellian to provoke the uncool heads in Redmond??

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Cooler Heads - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 08:32 PM EDT
M$ announces no plans to sue for patent infringement
Authored by: MDT on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 10:44 AM EDT

M$ made an official announcement that they have no plans to sue anyone over patent infringement.

Apparently they sent it to ZD Net.

Make of it what you will.



[ Reply to This | # ]

Does Schwartz really get it?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 11:05 AM EDT
Drat, I can't find it, but there was a news story- or one of Pam's articles-
pointing to (I think it was) a JavaOne conference where Schwartz spoke. He
began by asking something like, "Who hear among you IT types uses their
computing infrastructure as a competitive weapon?" Later in the talk he
espouses the virtues of Open Source.

It seemed a little schizophrenic to me. No, not a little. Decidedly.

Where are you, Jonathan: in a Community, or a War? Are you in it for love, or
for the taste of blood?

I have a good friend who went into business and was quite successful. Not once
did I hear him talk about his "battles". His concerns centered
primarily around making his customers happy, growing his company, giving his
employees an environment in which they could grow (yes, he's a very nice
guy...), providing for his families. I don't think he ever bought, carried, or
used a single weapon in the decade and a half or so that he owned his business
(He sold it to a Fortune 500 firm. It's hard running a business, even one you

His competition did try to crush him. But they stunk, so they failed.

Maybe one only needs weapons in publicly-traded companies...? I dunno.

Don't get me wrong, I've been working on Sun equipment since 1985 and I like it.
I've always liked Sun. But I wonder if Schwartz yet gets it.
-Atticus, aka Mike Schwager

[ Reply to This | # ]

Are there existing Patent agreements between MS and Sun
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 11:44 AM EDT
Wasn't there an announcement of a patent agreement between Microsoft and Sun,
for Star Office; Am I confused here?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does Sun's earlier Microsoft patent deal help or hurt this.
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 12:19 PM EDT
Will Sun's earlier $2billion patent peace deal with Microsoft help or hurt this
The deal involves payments of $700 million to Sun by Microsoft to resolve
pending antitrust issues and $900 million to resolve patent issues.

I guess it means that Sun can't protect much against Microsoft - but it should
do good things to protect against most other smaller patent holders.
I guess it doesn't help against the productless patent trolls like Myhrvold
either :-(

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nice one, Novell
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 02:10 PM EDT
Sun's not even a primarily GNU/Linux company, yet they're willing to defend it
unlike Novell. Makes Novell's actions look all the more pathetic and

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Be careful. - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 04:32 PM EDT
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 03:59 PM EDT
So now that Sun are getting all plush-eared and cuddly on the patent front does that mean they are going to settle the patent suit that they are trying to crush Azul Systems with?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Re: Perl Rules !
Authored by: Toon Moene on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 04:26 PM EDT
> Oh, and it has braces, i.e. {}, unlike Python which has
> syntactically significant whitespace - yechh!

I can't directly reply to the post with this title (probably a geeklog
precaution against Perl :-)

[ satire ]

Of course it's much better to have non-significant blanks, such as in Fortran

It allows you to write:

PARAMETER (N SIZE = 1 000 000)

which is much more readable than the ran together


[ /satire ]

Toon Moene (A GNU Fortran maintainer and physicist at large)

[ Reply to This | # ]

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