Earlier this month we were all trying to figure out the reasoning behind the Microsoft/Novell deal. After all, the two companies have hardly been best buddies in the past.
Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer, in a Q&A session after his keynote speech at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference in Seattle, offers some insight:
"We've had an issue, a problem that we've had to confront, which is because of the way the GPL works, and because open-source Linux does not come from a company -- Linux comes from the community -- the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders. We spend $7 billion a year on R&D, our shareholders expect us to protect or license or get economic benefit from our patented innovations. So how do we somehow get the appropriate economic return for our patented innovation, and how do we do interoperability." [emphasis added]
Here's another choice quote:
"... we want Suse Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft."
Reading between the lines here, Ballmer is saying that all other Linux users out there are stealing from Microsoft and its shareholders.
And finally, this one:
"We are willing to do the same deal with Red Hat and other Linux distributors, it's not an exclusive thing."
Hint of things to come perhaps?
This kind of talk from Ballmer is bound to send waves through the Linux community. I'm left wondering if this is designed to scare customers off the idea of deploying Linux for fear of a legal minefield ahead or whether Microsoft is seeing defending IP as an extra revenue stream in a changing world. Does this kind of talk help the likes of Dell and HP to stay faithful to Windows on the desktop environment? Yeah, it think it probably does. What it also means is that while Microsoft has spent years dismissing Linux, it's also been keeping a closer eye on it that some people believed.
Personally, I'd be very interested in seeing what IP Linux infringes. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I think IBM would be particularly interested to know too.