For decades Microsoft has fought to protect its intellectual property and interests by refusing to assist in the freeing of source materials to allow third parties to develop applications, programs and systems on its platforms.
Now, however, it has joined the Open Invention Network: an organisation that aims to protect Linux: an open source operating system that most have heard of but very few ever encounter. Linux is an operating system much like Windows or iOS. What is different about it is that it is free and editable. That means it has long been a favourite of programmers seeking to test their code: any user is free to play with Linux's back end system to their heart's content.
The Open Invention Network is supported by thousands of members including Google and IBM, which make available a selection of their operating systems and programs for use on Linux servers. The tangible offering made by these companies is to allow their Linux based patents to be used for free on a cross-licensing basis (i.e. all members can use all other members' Linux patents without fear of litigation).
By joining, Microsoft adds a substantial number of technologies to the patent-pool, and developers will be sure to be testing out new functionality in the coming months. Its membership also acknowledges the importance of free to access software in the digital age. Allowing hundreds of thousands of coders and programmers access to its patent pool means a higher chance of significant technological progress.
This is in stark contrast to Microsoft's previous position on Linux, with former CEO Steve Ballmer calling Linux "a cancer" in the early 2000s.
We look forward to seeing what innovation can come from Microsoft's contribution to the Open Invention network.
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