Microsoft's Amazon deal was all about Linux

The other day Microsoft announced that it had signed a deal with Amazon over licensing.

While we can see that the software giant could get its paws on some natty code we wondered what Amazon got out of the deal.

It appears that it got a promise that it would not be sued by Microsoft over the amount of Linux gear it used.

For a long time Microsoft has insisted that there were bits of Linux that used its patents. It has never said what, or tried to drag anyone to court.

However, buried in the small print of the press release about the deal was a set of technologies covered by the agreement including the Kindle, which employs open source software, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers.

What this could mean is that Microsoft is popping around to some of the bigger Linux based technology outfits and saying: “Look you have some stuff we want to use, give us the rights to use it and we will not make you the first person we sue over Linux”.

As a strategy it would be pretty effective. It is done to an outfit which is big enough to lose a lot of cash if Microsoft sues it. It will most likely say “OK” because licencing its technology to Microsoft does not cost it anything and it buys piece of mind for its future Linux projects. Many still remember the brief moment when SCO had some companies believing that it owned Linux code and the amount of money it was extorting from them.

It also means that Microsoft can send a message to the software world. “We own enough of Linux to make it worth our while suing”, while at the same time not getting any negative publicity.

What surprises us is that the Open Source community has not kicked up more of a stink about it.

Jim Zemlin, of the Linux Foundation, wrote of the deal that most technology companies have invested heavily in patents and that a cross-licensing agreement is a non-news event. The fact that two entities with expensive stockpiles of outdated weapons felt the need to negotiate détente is not surprising.