Ballmer repeats threats against Linux

Ballmer repeats threats against Linux

Summary: Microsoft's chief executive says Linux vendors must respect the software giant's intellectual property

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Steve Ballmer has reissued Microsoft's patent threat against Linux, warning open-source vendors that they must respect his company's intellectual property.

In a no-nonsense presentation to New York financial analysts last Thursday, Microsoft's chief executive said the company's partnership with Novell, which it signed in November 2006, "demonstrated clearly the value of intellectual property, even in the open-source world."

The cross-selling partnership means that Microsoft will recommend Suse Linux for customers who want a mixed Microsoft/open-source environment. It also involves a "patent co-operation agreement", under which Microsoft and Novell agreed not to sue each other's customers for patent infringement.

In a clear threat against open-source users, Ballmer repeated his earlier assertions that open source "is not free", referring to the possibility that Microsoft may sue Linux vendors. Microsoft has suggested that Linux software infringes some of its intellectual property, but has never named the patents in question.

Ballmer said: "I would not anticipate that we make a huge additional revenue stream from our Novell deal, but I do think it clearly establishes that open source is not free, and open source will have to respect the intellectual property rights of others just as any other competitor will."

"But I don't want to eliminate in your minds the notions of risk of pricing that comes from competition with open source. We are higher priced, but we bring greater value," Ballmer added.

Alongside the renewed threat over intellectual property, Ballmer was also bullish over winning large corporate accounts against Linux vendors. "We have done very well versus Linux on the desktop and on the server, and I am hopeful that we will build share, particularly in web servers and high-performance clusters, from Linux in the next year," he told analysts.

But Red Hat's chief executive is not impressed. Addressing a Merrill Lynch conference on Monday, Matthew Szulik urged his customers to use up their open source tokens from the Microsoft/Novell partnership. These coupons entitle them to support and maintenance for Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server.

He said: "We certainly expect that there will be those cases where customers will consume those coupons. We're certainly encouraging one or two customers to consume all of them: let's get this over with."

As of January, Microsoft had already sold 35,000 open-source coupons out of the 70,000 it has committed to make available each year as part of the five year-partnership.

Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and AIG Technologies are among those to take advantage of the Microsoft/Novell collaboration to roll out a mixed proprietary/open-source infrastructure.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • "Patent agreement"

    I would like to point out that the so-called patent agreement does not say that Micro$oft and Novell will not sue EACH OTHER (a violation of the GPL), it states that neither company will sue the other's customers. There is a big difference.
    I also notice that no one points out that for M$ to have signed that part of the agreement, does that mean that they are admitting that there are Linux/GNU/OpenSource patent violations in Windows?
  • Encouraging

    As a free software advocate, I think its rather encouraging to see Ballmer continuing to bang on about patent infringement. Following 'Hasta la' Vista's disappointing launch, no doubt this bullish display will keep his shareholders happy for a while.

    Perhaps the combined 'kiss of death' qualities of the Microsoft and Novell brands will have mutually detrimental result? Lets hope so.
  • Good point

    Thanks for flagging that up, ennoil - I've amended the article.

    That's a good point about whether Microsoft has tacitly admitted that Windows violates any Linux intellectual property. We actually looked at it in <A HREF=",1000002208,39285719,00.htm">this recent leader</A>.


    Graeme Wearden
  • Bullish

    Certainly a bullish display by Steve Ballmer, a man who's seldomly short of confidence. But really he has no choice.

    Interesting though that at the same time Ballmer cautioned the analysts about Vista sales, which will apparently be lower (particularly in the developed world) than many expected.

    Not sure MS/Novell has seen a kiss of death though, DogStar. God knows what legal action is upcoming. This thing's got a long way to run yet.
  • Why not stay away from Microsoft

    People complain about the evils of Microsoft yet they continue to use its products. There is still no good reason for upgrading to Vista. In fact, in many cases there is nothing to prevent a user to run Linux on his servers or desktops. If a computer store doesn't provide information whether certain hardware is Linux-compatible I go elsewhere. If more did the same, Microsoft would be in no position to utter these threats.
  • Ballmer repeats threats against Linux

    It stands to reason that there would be more violations in M$ than Linux.Since Linux is UNIX based and UNIX was around several years before M$, and given M$'s record of "borrowing" from other companies and even trying to patent someone else's technology. When Ballmer opens his mouth it might be appropriate to consider the source before accepting his "facts".
  • Demand to know what patents are involved

    I have e-mailed my local Microsoft representatives and asked them to provide information about the patents involved. As a user of several Linux distributions both professionally and personally, I claim that Microsoft should provide this information so that I have some means to assess the risks involved in continuing to use and employ Linux. I urge every Linux user to do the same!
  • Microsofts Gameplan...

    I still think Microsoft's game plan here is to "own" linux - I do think that their long term goal is to build an OS on top of linux in the same way Apple have built on Unix.
  • Microsofts Gameplan...

    I agree.
    What better way to 'corner' the market than to either swallow up the competition (i.e. Linux/Windows joint venture) or bully them into submission.
    Call me cynical but it's not as thought it's not been done before?
  • Defining the patents

    Pressell, I wish you the best of luck with this. Microsoft is remaining resolutely schtum on exactly what these patents are. If you hear anything, do post again :o)
  • No expetations

    I do not really expect a meaningful response from MS, but since we also do a lot of MS business in our company I just wanted to let our local reps know that Mr. Ballmers statements are quite annoying and that they only serve to affect our relations to MS in a negative way.
  • MS should be accountable

    And I say full credit to you, Pressell. You do business with MS, they should be accountable.
  • Microsofts Gameplan...

    Embrace, Extend, Extinguish...