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Scenario 1: Handshakes all around
As it builds a stable of license partners, Microsoft gains a stake, however small, in the expansion of open source. Through its deal with Novell, Microsoft now gets money from every SUSE Linux license sold. It tries to double, triple, quadruple that.
Scenario 2: Competition snuffed out
With some licensing momentum, Microsoft takes aim at Red Hat and other top open source distributors. When they won’t pay up, Microsoft asserts in court that they violated a set of Microsoft patents (despite Gutierrez’s assertion last week that “if we wanted to [litigate], we would have done so years ago”). Even when the court declares those patents invalid, Microsoft comes back with another suit, picking out another set of patents, and the suits drag on, until the legal expenses overwhelm defendants. One by one, they settle. IBM, with Linux at the center of its hardware strategy, grows more wary, despite having the biggest patent portfolio with which to counterpunch. Can it attack Microsoft’s portfolio without creating precedents that weaken its own portfolio, from which it pulls in $1 billion a year?
Scenario 3: It blows up in Microsoft’s face
So how could Microsoft overplay its hand? Microsoft asserts over and over that the open source code its customers are using is stolen goods. But nobody else believes it. After watching Microsoft single out and take down two startup open source distributors, IBM and the rest of the industry have seen enough. When Microsoft targets another company up the open source food chain, the industry rallies to its defense.