Linus Torvalds turns 50 on Saturday, born December 28, 1969. As developer of the Linux kernel and the operating system, he has changed the entirety of home and business computing by giving users a choice. Despite accounting for only 2% of operating system in use, it is enough to keep Microsoft, Apple and Google from holding a triopoly and dictating the entirety of the market. Myself, I use Linux for web browsing and Windows for productivity. Linux can be annoying at times (e.g. memory management), but it’s secure enough and has modern browsers to make it usable. Windows never has to go online, which means my computer is never hijacked or held hostage by “updates”, nor a security risk without those updates (which are never made available as downloads you can do on your own time…).
Linux’s open source nature has forced Microsoft to stop its “all proprietary” attitude and now allows its patents to be used for free.
UPDATED: By joining the Open Invention Network, Microsoft is offering its entire patent portfolio to all of the open-source patent consortium’s members.
Several years ago, I said the one thing Microsoft has to do — to convince everyone in open source that it’s truly an open-source supporter — is stop using its patents against Android vendors. Now, it’s joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. Microsoft has essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members.
Before Microsoft joined, OIN had more than 2,650 community members and owns more than 1,300 global patents and applications. OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history and represents a core set of open-source intellectual-property values. Its members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE. The OIN patent license and member cross-licenses are available royalty-free to anyone who joins the OIN community.
I’m not as confident about Linux’s future as is Torvalds, but attitudes can be changed. IBM went over completely to Linux almost a decade ago.
And you shouldn’t be either. Every company wants to rule Linux — none of them can or ever will.
Every time I write a story about Microsoft and Linux, I can guarantee I’ll be buried under such comments as “Microsoft is buying control of Linux!” or “Microsoft is just practicing it old embrace, extend, and extinguish tactics to destroy Linux” or “Microsoft is a wolf in sheep’s clothing — it will wreck Linux.”
Here’s the truth of the matter: Yes, Microsoft wants to profit from Linux. And, yes, Microsoft wants to extend and control Linux. Guess what? Everyone does, and none of them can.
At the 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference, I talked to Linus Torvalds and several other of the Linux kernel’s top programmers. They universally agreed Microsoft wants to control Linux, but they’re not worried about it. That’s because Linux, by its very nature and its GPL2 open-source licensing, can’t be controlled by any single third-party.
I just wish other excellent operating systems hadn’t fallen by the wayside (e.g. BeOS). OpenVMS for x86 hardware is approaching initial release. It was supposed to be finished in 2019, but better complete and late than unstable and insecure. I’d pay for it.