Ballmer's Macaca moment

Summary:A deal Novell signed as a lifeline is becoming an anchor and Microsoft, which tried to get some street cred by dealing with Novell, is now about as popular in the open source community as the guys at SCO. All because of a few ill-chosen remarks.

It's beginning to look like Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's outburst claiming patent rights over Linux may be his Macaca Moment.

You remember Macaca, don't you? S.R. Sidarth (right) was a little-known aide to underdog Senate candidate James Webb in Virginia this summer, assigned to follow and photograph incumbent George Allen.

It's common these days. They're looking for the rival to do something stupid.

Allen did. Sidarth's video led to other revelations and crystallized the nature of opposition to Allen. Webb won, narrowly, and will be part of a new Democratic Senate majority. Salon named Sidarth its Man of the Year.

Flash forward a few months to Ballmer who, after keynoting the PASS conference in Seattle, rashly claimed in the Q&A that anyone who didn't use a Novell Linux might henceforth be in Microsoft's legal crosshairs.

The unscripted remark crystallized opposition to the Novell-Microsoft deal in the open source community. Despite Novell's best efforts, the stain won't wash out. And as with the Allen campaign things just keep getting worse.

As Mary Jo Foley reports Jeremy Allaire, the lead developer of Samba whom Novell hired with great fanfare in April, 2005, has suddenly quit, citing the Microsoft deal and saying it corrupts the company.

A deal Novell signed as a lifeline is becoming an anchor and Microsoft, which tried to get some Linux street cred by dealing with Novell, is now about as popular in the open source community as the guys at SCO.

All because of a few ill-chosen remarks.  

Topics: Enterprise Software

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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