TomTom suit suggests Microsoft's still Microsoft

Microsoft wants us to believe that it has entered a new era of openness, but its legal actions to bludgeon Linux continue to undermine that message.

The more that Microsoft's patent lawsuit against (and subsequent settlement with) TomTom simmers in my consciousness, the more I want to boil.

I gave Microsoft the benefit of the doubt early on: I know a few of the Microsoft personnel involved in the case, and I think that they're wonderful people of integrity and intelligence.

They're also fiercely competitive, and it's becoming apparent to me that the TomTom lawsuit was designed to bludgeon one of Microsoft's biggest competitors, Linux; it was not any serious attempt to protect its intellectual property.

The Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin captures my sentiments well:

In the last several days, Microsoft has shown that despite claims of acquiring a newly found respect for open principles and technology, developers should be cautious in believing promises made by this "new" Microsoft.

When it counts, it appears that Microsoft still actively seeks to undermine those technologies or standards that are truly open, especially when those technologies pose a significant threat to (its) business.

Microsoft can rightly complain that it's a prisoner of the same patent system that it wields as a cudgel. But I don't believe in using the legal system to give someone--anyone--the edge in a product-driven marketplace. If Microsoft has to compete with lawyers against Linux instead of with product line managers, it should simply pay out a massive dividend and close up shop.

Microsoft is a better company than this. Unfortunately, its recurring rash of legal cunning against open source is getting stale. I want to believe that Microsoft can change. As Zemlin suggests, however, perhaps this leopard really can't change its spots.

Microsoft is asking the world to judge it by its actions. That's what we're doing, and Microsoft loses that case.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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