Microsoft & its FAT Problems

The news that Microsoft wants money for its file formats being used by flash memory makers has the usual Everything-But-My-Stuff-Should-be-Free crew in a tizzy. They’re wrong and being typically silly, of course:

  1. Microsoft has a $250K cap per licensee — this is not big money for Sandisk, Lexar, et al. Microsoft is telling analysts that the licenses will not be material to future revenue.

  2. The licensing is only for using Microsoft’s implementation of FAT, not for just anyone’s implementation. In particular, it looks like it may even be limited to people looking to have strong support for file names longer than 8 characters.

  3. Critics are trying to have it both ways. They want Microsoft to be open and to offer access to its intellectual property and trade secrets, but they don’t want to offer anything in exchange for that unfettered access.

As near as I can tell, Microsoft never said it would not charge licensing fees for use of its FAT format. Matter of fact, all along it has been a reasonable presumption that it would. The argument that if people had only known that there were patents underlying FAT they would not have used it is revisionist and wilfully naive.