[ILUG-BOM] An Interesting Question

Bhargav Bhatt bbb20004@[EMAIL-PROTECTED]
Thu Sep 26 09:38:50 IST 2002

Hello Luggers!
I will play the Devil's Advocate here.
Consider, for a moment, that the folloing *HYPOTHETICAL* situation is true.
    Microsoft Corp. has been losing market value rapidly(but it still is the
number 1 software company) due to the advancement a much more "stable" and
"secure" operating system called GNU/Linux. Since the GNU/Linux operating
system, licensed under the GPL is completely open source, *anybody* is
allowed to *see* the code. Lets say that Microsoft, to stay at the top,
employs a few developers who are skilled at both GNU/Linux and Windows.
Microsoft, then asks them to write a clone of the linux kernel for
incorporating large chunks of it, maybe even the kernel in its entirety,
into the next version of windows. Since M$ is the still the leader, they
have the highest market share. Now if almost everybody switches to the new
version of windows(based on the linux kernel), they will be in for a
pleasant surprise. They will now get a much more stable and secure OS, which
unknown to them, is running a replica of the linux kernel. This new OS will
please major IT companies, using M$, too, as they will not have scratch
their heads over switching to a more stable operating environment. This will
mean an increasing demand for the now, stable and secure, OS from Microsoft.
Since all patches applied to OSS are open too, M$ can easily incorporate
those into windows update.
    M$ in the meanwhile, does NOT disclose to *anyone* the ingredients of
the new OS. Thus M$ keeps making more money, and its market grows, thereby
condemning GNU/Linux to realms of geeks, where it had its humble beginnings.
Since M$ does not disclose source code, there is no way for others(Read
GNU/Linux supporters) to make a claim that the new Windows is a rip off of
the Linux kernel.
    My question is, (discounting the ethical and moral concerns as these
cant be counted as legal arguments and assuming that M$ pays enough $$ to
the developers to keep their mouth shut) what
contract/law/clause/license/etc is there right now to prevent M$ from doing
something as dastardly as this?
    P.S: i dont think that the GPL can be used at M$ is too smart at code
obfuscation(i think it means obscuring source code) for people to be able to
disassemble their OS and claim it to be a rip-off of linux.

Bhargav Bhatt,
Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics,
Columbia University.
Is it a co-incidence that Red Hat and Robin Hood share the same initials?

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