Is Ballmer's latest more than mere FUD?

This is almost like announcing that there will sooner or later be an announcement of Microsoft starting patent litigation against “Linux

Florian Mueller (you may call him Floyd), a German opponent of software patents, has been reading the tea leaves on Steve Ballmer's latest Forbes interview and he's worried.

Correction:  The original picture here and Web site link were to a different Florian Mueller. My apologies.

Mueller writes:

This is almost like announcing that there will sooner or later be an announcement of Microsoft starting patent litigation against “Linux” vendors and/or users.

By “intellectual property” he must mean patents. IP is a broad term and includes diverse rights, but it’s hard to see how Linux would infringe any trade mark rights or copyrights held by Microsoft. However, given the size of the Linux code, it’s almost certain that it will violate a number of patents, and some of them, such as the ones on the FAT file system, may indeed be held by Microsoft. The term “Linux” is very unspecific here: Does he mean the GNU operating system or only the Linux kernel, or does he include key applications on top of both? There are many people who mean pretty much all free and open source software when they say “Linux”.

Mueller also copies earlier sabre rattling from Microsoft on this issue.

For its part Forbes was not so alarmist. Its headline calls Ballmer  "bemused." For me, the key quote came when Ballmer attacked IBM and its support of the operating system:

They promote Linux, but if there's a bug in Linux, IBM is not the responsible party to fix that. It's whoever in the community.

That's pure FUD. Of course if you have an IBM contract, IBM is going to take responsibility for making things right. Which makes you wonder whether Ballmer's whole interview is just that -- an attempt to sew a little Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, make people fear Big Bad Microsoft (with a market cap now double that of IBM) is about to pounce, that kind of thing.

Still, should it concern us?

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