[linux-elitists] "Microsoft to license Unix code"

Martin Pool mbp@samba.org
Mon May 19 19:20:01 PDT 2003

On 19 May 2003, "Karsten M. Self" <kmself@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> on Mon, May 19, 2003 at 06:11:35PM +1000, Jeff Waugh (jdub@perkypants.org) wrote:
> > So,
> > 
> > I don't think this changes much, but it's an interesting data point. Well,
> > apart from being good media fodder for SCO and MS.
> > 
> >   http://www.zdnet.com.au/newstech/os/story/0,2000048630,20274643,00.htm

This is really interesting.  I can think of a few possibilities:

 - This is a way for Microsoft to funnel money to SCO and prop them up
   through a protracted court case, and perhaps to convince IBM that
   SCO won't be exhausted.  (But why not just buy stock?)

 - Microsoft want to increase the credibility of SCO's attempt to get
   licence fees from companies using Linux.  But why should they have
   to pay, when all-Microsoft shops presumably do not?

There are also a few possibilities that are a bit more embarrassing
for Microsoft and that perhaps ought to be raised in the press or in

 - Microsoft have (perhaps unintentionally) also inserted copyright
   SCO code into their codebase, and were at risk of a lawsuit as
   well.  If it can be copied by a rogue programmer into Linux then it
   would be easier to copy it into a proprietary system.

 - Microsoft are using Linux or Unix.

The SCO press release also says


    "With this announcement, Microsoft is clearly showing the
    importance of maintaining compatibility with UNIX and Microsoft's
    software solutions through their software licensing. This
    important step will better help their customers implement UNIX and
    Windows solutions."

Perhaps Microsoft are planning on expanding the fig-leaf POSIX
subsystem in NT into something actually useful?  That would be kind of
an admission that their plans to move the world to Win32 had failed,
but it might also help stop migration from proprietary Unix to Linux.
If it was equally easy to port to NT then some companies might
consider it.  (I can't see any way in which SCO code would actually be
technically useful in writing this system, given its reputation for
being old and crufty.)

If, as SCO disingenuously claims, SCO owns the heart of all Unix
operating systems, then surely Microsoft buying them would be an
enormous antitrust problem.

I think it says something about Microsoft's ability to innovate that
they think licensing 20-year old Unix code is a good deal compared to
what they can do in house. :-)

Near the bottom of that article, Ard writes

    In March 2001, Microsoft Senior Vice President Craig Mundie said
    releasing source code into the public domain is "unhealthy,"

It's a shame that even in 2003, some journalists can't understand the
difference between open source and public domain.  I don't think
Microsoft ever had a problem with public domain code, since they can
freely take from it.  It was only the reciprocal open source licences
like the GPL that they didn't want.

> Anyone got a dollar figure on that deal?  I seem to recall $200m, but
> don't see that anywhere.

It might well be a peppercorn if the only reason is to give SCO more


This debate is about more than choosing a method of developing software.
	-- Microsoft Corporation, FAQ Regarding Shared Source

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