IBM’s Pickling Continues

I’m heartened to note that SuSe has added in an application server to their linux distribution – increasing the pressure on IBM to defend its increasingly curious linux strategy. Why bother with WebSphere when you get an app server in Solaris, Red Hat, Windows, and SuSe? Great question for IBM customers and ISV’s to ask before they re-up on WebSphere – you’ve never had stronger pricing leverage.

I particularly enjoy the jockeying between the companies on the definition of “low-end” vs. “high-end” application servers. I wonder whose definition will matter most when their sales reps are trying to close a big app server deal.

And continuing the pickling, now it looks as though IBM is launching its first IP threats through the press. By limiting patent protection to only the GNU linux kernel, the very component IBM has gone to great lengths to avoid, it looks like IBM just put the industry on notice of their intent to enforce higher level patents.

The kernel is made available to customers only in the much broader distributions made by Red Hat – so will IBM agree not to enforce patents across all of Red Hat’s products? All of Novell/SuSe’s? If I were a linux company, I’d certainly want written documentation that IBM wasn’t going to litigate against me for patent violations. Remember, we’re talking about a company that pulls in more than a billion dollars a year in patent settlements.

And surely if IBM were serious about their largesse, they’d make these statements in written policies, and not use the press to confuse the issue.

If I were the subject of litigation by IBM’s technology sales team, I’d certainly want details of what IBM just said. And if I were an IBM stockholder, I’d wonder how they planned on keeping the money flowing, and whether the recent disclosures regarding concentration in the linux community represent a material risk to their business. Does it?

Dan Farber has a good note – as does BusinessWeek – on the recent goings on. And Doc Searls has an even more interesting point about the moebius nature of cluetrains.

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