In January we revealed that Microsoft had acquired a chunk of SGI's graphics portfolio. At the time we mused if the Beast had a plan to scupper OpenGL.
This was taking paranoia too far, wise heads told us.
But in the minutes of the OpenGL developer meeting, it's clear that Microsoft has staked an IP claim on portions of the OpenGL spec, and it's willing to license it's patents on RAND terms.
"Microsoft believes they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program extension. They did not contribute to the extension, but are trying to be upfront about it. They're offering to license their IP under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms; will license rights to the extent necessary, provided a reciprocal license is granted to MS. Granted on 1:1 basis for OpenGL 1.3, 1.4, and earlier versions. Contact Dave Aronson for more specifics ... Microsoft does believe they have IP claims against fragment shaders, too."
This gives the first public indication that hardware manufacturers are beginning to rub up against Microsoft's patent portfolio. Whether the Beast's goal is to kill OpenGL with kindness, or simply to let the GPU manufacturers know who's da boss, we don't know. The wording is misleadingly benign: non-discriminatory licenses are only non-discriminatory until there's some discrimination.
And right now it's too early to say. All we can see is the shark's fin.
But we'll be keeping our eyes on two patents filed by SGI - which created OpenGL - particularly this one and this one. If we discover that these have been assigned to Microsoft, it may be time to leave the beach entirely.
Any views from Linux developers or OpenGL developers on non-Microsoft platforms? ®