For the tl:dr crowd:
The Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge essentially states that Google is willing to share their patents free of charge and without fear of legal action unless someone steps on their toes first.
The big caveat here is that Google is pledging not to sue anyone who uses its MapReduce patents for Free or Open Source Software. Google is defining Free or Open Source software as any software that meets the Open Source Initiative's "Open Source Definition," as well as any version of the Free Software Foundation's "Free Software Definition." Still, Google iterates that the OPN Pledge isn't limited to a specific project or open-source copyright — as long as the project meets the FSF or OSI's definition for Free Software or Open Source Software, it's protected by the OPN Pledge.
In short, while commercial applications cannot capitalize on this (at least not directly), with this pledge Google at least makes a conscious effort to be partial to developers on all platforms. While I can't truly appreciate this personally as I'm not part of the open source crowd, it seems to me that this is as big a bone a corporation can throw independent developers without shooting themselves in the foot.
Unless the pledge is bogus (oh, those repercussions should be fun to watch), I should say this could affect (if not shape) the demeanor of patent holders in general (anyone recall the luls around MP3 over the past two decades?), which might spread out the cloud of mindless paranoia that currently hovers over the software (and hardware)* landscape.
* I'm looking at you, Apple
Then again, I'm no patent expert and have never needed to deal with any directly. What are your thoughts?
Edited by irreversible, 28 March 2013 - 12:51 PM.