In a somewhat surprising move Sun Microsystems has offered to use it’s considerable patent portfolio to help protect Red Hat and Ubuntu from Microsoft’s legal threats. Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz made the statement recently in his blog and while it’s not exactly an official company press release, it’s still significant I think.
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).
Sun and Microsoft have quite a turbulent history with no love lost on either side I would say. The companies have never really seen eye to eye, Microsoft’s deliberate hindrance of Java springs to mind. Sun have also moved more and more towards an open source ethos in recent years and it’s nice to see. They are currently in the process of releasing their popular Java programming language under the GPL, they have also had a major hand in the development of OpenOffice.org so I think it’s safe to say they won’t be on Steve Balmer’s Christmas card list 🙂
At the risk of sounding sycophantic, I have to say I’m impressed with Sun for making this pledge. It has to be a positive thing for Linux and the open source community at large. I think they could do more and I doubt their motives are purely altruistic but they still deserve a pat on the back. In my opinion all the years of MS bullying have alienated them from a lot of the software world. People work with Microsoft often because they have to not because they want to, they seem to be like an unpopular dictator in the software world. I suspect there are many people in Silicon Valley who would love to see them come unstuck.
So l’ll leave you with a saying that I think may be appropriate in this case:
“The people you meet on your way up are usually the same ones you meet on the way down.”