Thursday, June 28, 2007

What happens if Red Hat signs a patent agreement with Microsoft?

As news continues to swirl about the likelihood of Red Hat signing a patent agreement with Microsoft, it brings an interesting question into the location of employment for top Linux kernel engineers. After posting Q1 results yesterday, Matthew Szulik, CEO of Red Hat, confirmed that he had talks with Microsoft last year about a patent agreement. That is not really news, but when he was asked if the discussions continue to this day, he mentioned that he could not answer the question. That somewhat goes against what the company has said in the recent past about the chances of a patent alignment between the two companies.

So, if indeed there is a culmination of these patent talks and an agreement is met, what does that mean for some of the leading kernel engineers that reside at the home of the red fedora? There is no doubt that Red Hat employs one of the greatest, if not the greatest, collection of kernel engineers; from the likes of Ingo Molnar to Alan Cox, etc. So, it begs the question, what would their stance be? Would they go the route of Jeremy Allison, whereby he decided to leave Novell and move to Google as a result of the Novell/Microsoft agreement? A lot of the engineers have been with Red Hat for a long time, much longer than Allison's tenure at Novell, so it would be very interesting. We will see how it plays out if an agreement is met.

Ultimately, the most interesting phenomenon as it pertains to employment is the power of the open source developer in today's market. Is it possible that due to this power, top kernel engineers can heavily influence the path of a corporation's endeavors. I believe this is indeed the case, and maybe more so moving forward, but we will discuss this in another post.

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