The BBC Loves Them Some Microsoft

Either that or they're crap journalists. Or their technology editor's wholly unknowledgeable (which really amounts to the same).

In the offending report, one paragraph (comprising just one sentence—have you noticed how often the BBC does that?) says that:

It [Microsoft] also promised not to sue open source developers for making that software available for non-commercial use.

Now, open source developers are those who make open source software, which is any software that's released under an open source licence. Point 6 of the Open Source Definition explicitly states that commercial users cannot be excluded. So for a program to be released as open source, it must be available for commercial as well as non-commercial use.

Open source developers therefore have no interest in releasing code just for non-commercial use. Doing so is usually called shared source—“you can look, but you can't run it for commercial purposes”. Microsoft have offered code under shared source licences before—that, in itself, isn't news.

Far from helping open source developers, this may actually make it easier for Microsoft to sue them: they can more-plausibly claim that an open source developer has looked at some of Microsoft's source code, and copied it in code they've released as open source (and therefore for commercial use), which would be a violation of Microsoft's code's licence.

Certainly, with this as (at least) a possibility, any open source developer would be foolhardy to actually look at the Microsoft code if they intend to write anything comparable in the future.