Tag Archives: Red Hat

Linux’s Market Share: Is There Any Way To Know?


One thing many of us would like to know, I am sure, is how many people out there use Linux? The usual numbers, those from Net Applications, would indicate that less than 1% of people use Linux. More recently, though, there have been some more optimistic numbers. Canonical is claiming that 11% of businesses use Ubuntu. (If that is the case, just imagine how many use Red Hat or Suse.) Gartner says that Linux’s market share is 4%, putting it about even with the Mac. And Context says that almost 3% of PCs sold in the UK have Linux pre-installed.

While none of those numbers are huge, they mean the difference between Linux and Mac OS X being about equal and Linux being a speck of dust in the sea. The fundamental problem is that it is really, really hard to know how what the marketshare of Linux, or any open-source software, is. After all, one download might never be used, or only be used for a short time, and another might be used to install Linux onto 100 computers.

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Patent suit against Linux has a Kevin Bacon-esque connection to Microsoft


It appears as though the first patent suit against Linux — targeting Red Hat and Novell — is now official. According to Groklaw’s Pamela Jones:

IP Innovation LLC has just filed a patent infringement claim against Red Hat and Novell. It was filed October 9, case no. 2:2007cv00447, IP Innovation, LLC et al v. Red Hat Inc. et al, in Texas. Where else? The patent troll magnet state…… [this is] The first ever patent infringement litigation involving Linux. Here’s the patent, for those who can look at it without risk. If in doubt, don’t. Here’s the complaint [PDF]….The plaintiff is asking for an injunction, along with damages.

Jones goes on to cite some relevant points of the complaint but then, like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, unearths a potential connection to Microsoft. According to a story posted by Patent Troll Tracker well before this lawsuit turned up, IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation which the site classifies as a patent troll. This past July Acacia hired Jonathan Taub away from his job as Director, Strategic Alliances for the Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED) division at Microsoft and then, just last week, it hired Brad Brunell away from his job at Microsoft where, among other jobs, he served as General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing.

The blogosphere is likely to have a field day with this connection and I suspect that dumpsters will be dived in hopes of finding a less tenuous connection to Microsoft. The timing of the suit seems rather serendipitous given both the timing of Brunell’s move as well as the threats that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer issued last week — ones that specifically mentioned patents (vs. the other form of intellectual property; copyrights). Even so,

Is there a connection? Well, there’s no smoking gun at this point. And if there was such a connection, you can’t help but wonder why Novell would be named in the suit since Microsoft and Novell are now working together to better integrate Windows with Novell’s Suse Linux and the arrangement includes patent protection for Novell. So, you’ll have to judge for yourself what’s going on here.

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Microsoft’s Ballmer calls out Red Hat with more patent threats


It seems that Microsoft is feeling a bit threatened again. With Microsoft Vista “tanking” and arrows coming from all sides it seems that Microsoft is back to scare tactics and fear again. With Red Hat still in control of the server market, on the Linux side, Microsoft seems to feel that it can “bully” them into paying their “extortion fees”. It almost sounds gangster like, but we are talking about technology, not crime. It would be nice to see Microsoft actually “show” what these patent infringements are!

From ZDNET.com
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is back on the “Linux violates our patents” kick. But this time, he’s calling out Red Hat, specifically, for allegedly infringing on Microsoft IP. And he’s hinting there could be other patent challenges coming to open source from companies like Eolas. At the UK launch of Microsoft’s Startup Accelerator Programme last week, Ballmer said it’s only a matter of time before the leading Linux distributor is going to have to pay up for allegedly violating Microsoft IP. As reported by VNU.Net:

“‘People who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us,’ Ballmer said last week at a company event in London discussing online services in the UK.”

Red Hat execs said earlier this summer that Red Hat isn’t opposed to working with Microsoft on the interoperabiity front, but that it has no intentions of signing a patent-protection agreement, like those inked by Novell, Linspire and Xandros. Under those agreements, Microsoft has agreed not to sue customers using those vendors’ Linux distributions (as long as they are not covered by the GNU General Public License Version 3) for a set period of time. In order to secure this indemnification promise, these vendors agreed to license Microsoft IP that the Redmondians claim is part of Linux and other open-source products.

It seemed Microsoft was going to try to let controversy die down, following claims earlier this year that free and open-source software violates 235 of Microsoft’s patents. But it looks like Ballmer has decided — maybe because no new Linux vendors have signed patent-protection contracts with Microsoft recently — that it’s time to rattle the patent sabers again.

Every time Ballmer opens his mouth on this issue, it seems to me he undoes any goodwill that Bill Hilf (who recently received a promotion and is now General Manager of Windows Server Marketing and Platform Strategy) and his team had done to build bridges with the open-source community.

Groklaw.Net noted that Ballmer’s latest remarks go further than simply claiming that Red Hat is violating unnamed Microsoft patents. During the aformentioned Q&A, Ballmer hinted that Eolas — the company that sued Microsoft for browser patent violations and won a settlement with the Redmondians — might be the kind of company to go after Linux and open-source vendors for patent violations. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I can’t help but wonder if one of the terms in the Eolas-Microsoft settlement might specify that Eolas lodge a patent lawsuit against Red Hat or other open-source vendor. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Groklaw also highlighted another Ballmer remark from the Q&A:

I would love to see all Open Source innovation happen on top of Windows. So we’ve done a lot to encourage, for example, the team building, PHP, the team building, many of the other Open Source components, I’d love to see those sorts of innovations proceed very successfully on top of Windows.”

What kinds of incentives (monetary and otherwise) might Microsoft be offering open-source vendors to get their software to “proceed very successfully on top of Windows”? Did Microsoft pay Novell anything (money, resources, indemnification promises, etc.) to help get Silverlight ported to Linux? Interestingly, neither Microsoft nor Miguel de Icaza and his Moonlight team says they are at liberty to discuss that issue….

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