Ballmer: I may have called Linux a cancer but now I love it

Former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer once considered Linux users a bunch of communist thieves and saw open source itself as a cancer on Microsoft's intellectual property. But no more.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: Going to war with open source made Microsoft a ton of money.

Image: Microsoft

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer no longer thinks Linux is a "malignant cancer".

With Azure moving up the food chain in Redmond, Microsoft has since 2012 softened its stance on open-source software, capped off by this week's move to port SQL Server to Linux.

Eleven years before that, shortly after taking the helm at Microsoft, Ballmer said, "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

The other c-word he used for Linux was communism, accusing the Linux community of diluting Microsoft's R&D spend by infringing on its intellectual property.

Reuters reports that Ballmer still stands by his cancer analogy as right for the time. Speaking at an event earlier this week, he said going to war with open source "made a ton of money" that still contributes to Microsoft's revenue. But he said he now considers that the threat from Linux is over.

Ballmer said he "loved" the SQL for Linux announcement and had emailed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to congratulate him on the move.

Yet, as Reuters points out, Microsoft's shares lost 40 percent of their value during Ballmer's 14-year tenure. They've risen 50 percent under current chief Nadella, who recently went public on Microsoft's love for Linux.

Still, it would be wrong to believe the open-sourcing of Microsoft only started with Nadella. A case in point is the open-sourcing of .Net, which began three years before Nadella's appointment.

Ballmer said the change in the market's perception of Microsoft is in part the result of having a new executive at the helm.

Perhaps his new-found peace with Linux is linked to yoga, a practice he said he has taken up after leaving Microsoft in 2014.

He also said he and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates "have gone our own paths".

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