Microsoft loves Linux. And it really wants to prove it. In lieu of a wedding ring, the company has decided to show its dedication to open-source software by joining the Open Innovation Network (OIN), a community designed to protect Linux and other open-source software from legal liability.
As part of its grand gesture, the company is also planning on making 60,000 of its patents public, and making them available to the OIN. This should help protect Linux from legal liability, and make those patents available for use by the 2,400 members of the OIN free of charge.
This isn't the first big step in Microsoft's embrace of open-source software, either. As Microsoft's Erich Andersen points out:
"We began this journey over two years ago through programs like Azure IP Advantage, which extended Microsoft’s indemnification pledge to open source software powering Azure services. We doubled down on this new approach when we stood with Red Hat and others to apply GPL v. 3 “cure” principles to GPL v. 2 code, and when we recently joined the LOT Network, an organization dedicated to addressing patent abuse by companies in the business of assertion."
Those 60,000 patents do cover a large part of Microsoft's war chest, but there will still be some exceptions. Windows desktop and desktop application code, for example, won't make the cut - for obvious reasons. But the decision does mark a new era for Microsoft, in which it may have more open-source in its DNA than ever before. It also represents a huge blow to Microsoft's bottom line, as patent royalties from Android smartphone makers made Microsoft billions of dollars each year.