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Linux player hits back at Ballmer

Open source solutions provider Cybersource has lashed out at Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer's statement in Singapore that Linux is potentially in violation of various software idea patents.Con Zymaris, Cybersource chief executive officer, said that in reality, the platform which is most at risk from drowning in patent litigation is Microsoft's own, adding that even Microsoft's US$50 billion "cash hoard" may not be enough to save it.

Open source solutions provider Cybersource has lashed out at Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer's statement in Singapore that Linux is potentially in violation of various software idea patents.

Con Zymaris, Cybersource chief executive officer, said that in reality, the platform which is most at risk from drowning in patent litigation is Microsoft's own, adding that even Microsoft's US$50 billion "cash hoard" may not be enough to save it.

"At present, Linux is not the target of any software idea patent attacks," he said. "Microsoft however, is facing between 30 and 35 such court actions. To name but a few, Microsoft has been ordered to pay US$521 million to Eolas for an infringement in Internet Explorer and another US$440 million settlement to InterTrust Technologies Corp. for infringement of digital restrictions management patents and US$1.6 billion to settle a patent and anti-trust suit bought against it by Sun Microsystems. That's over US$2 billion for just three suits, well over US$500 million per patent case. Furthermore, the number of court cases against Microsoft is increasing," Zymaris said.

Zymaris added that Ballmer's "scaremongering" is a response to the Singaporean government's recent decision to migrate 20,000 PCs to open source desktop productivity applications.

"Ballmer is trying to use FUD about software idea patents as a weapon to stem more government and corporate defections to Linux. In his haste, however, he forgets to mention that if software idea patents are a threat to Linux and open source, they are far more of a threat to Microsoft itself," he said.

"If we believe Ballmer, the Linux kernel may possibly infringe on 228 software idea patents. If that's the case, then it seems reasonable to expect Microsoft's Windows, which has a code-base ten times larger, infringes on over 2000. And that's just the operating system. Once we include Microsoft Exchange, Visual Studio, SQL Server and dozens of other products, Microsoft could be infringing on thousands more. On current track record, losing even 100 patent cases might be enough to deplete Microsoft current cash reserves. Suddenly that gargantuan mountain of money that Microsoft sucked dry from its customers doesn't quite seem large enough," Zymaris said.

"In watching Microsoft's recent movements in this space, we come to the conclusion that Microsoft have given up trying to compete with Linux and open source on value, quality and security. We had hoped that Microsoft would respond with better, more secure and much cheaper software, rather than resort to shabby veiled legal FUD. But if that's the message it wants to send the world, then so be it," concluded Zymaris.