Paul McDougall at InformationWeek may be reading too much into Microsoft's recent patent deal with Kyocera, but he does ask an interesting question. Does the agreement reveal Microsoft's patent position, at least as it relates to embedded Linux? (Or does it simply reveal that Japanese companies would rather settle with Microsoft than stand up for themselves, since they seem to be falling like flies before Microsoft's patent FUD?)
Under the deal, Microsoft gets to add patented Kyocera Mita technology to its Windows and Office products.
What does Kyocera get? The right to use patented Microsoft technology in its printers, copiers and "certain Linux-based embedded devices."
The question, of course, is why Kyocera Mita would need a patent from Microsoft to enhance products built on embedded Linux. Is it adding proprietary Microsoft technology on top of embedded Linux?
Or does it mean, as McDougall asks, that Kyocera is accepting Microsoft's patent claims?
I doubt it. I doubt Microsoft has been any more forthcoming in private about its patent claims than it has in public. I used to work for a large Japanese company (Mitsui & Co.). I also used to work for an embedded Linux vendor. Between the two roles I discovered that Japanese electronics companies use a lot of Linux and they're also very conservative.
Mix the two together, with a finger-pointing, brash American FUD-meister like Microsoft, and you get a patent deal. I don't think there's much more to it than that.
Regardless, Linux had a strong toehold in embedded Linux before Microsoft even thought of being relevant there. If nothing else, I'm guessing any claims around embedded Linux would be swatted down on prior art (whether that's from Linux or VxWorks, pSOS, etc.).