Linux users to Microsoft: What 'balance sheet liability'?
November 22, 2006 Leave a comment
Continued coverage of a story I've been watching closely. Computerworld has an article the covers the reactions of a couple CIO's to the recent Microsoft-Novell agreement. From the article:
“I do not believe that my company has an “undisclosed balance sheet liability,” Russ Donnan, CIO at business information provider Kroll Factual Data, said in an e-mail response to questions from Computerworld about the Microsoft deal. Kroll Factual, a Loveland, Colo.-based subsidiary of global services provider Marsh & McLennan Companies, uses Red Hat Linux servers along with Windows servers in its data center.
Donnan, who described himself as “not a huge fan of software patents,” said “the threat of such a 'liability' would not in any way influence” whether Kroll would stick with Red Hat or move to SUSE or even Windows. “Steve Ballmer is posturing for mind share to enterprise executives, knowing it will have little to no impact on IT executives,” he said.
Barry Strasnick, CIO of North Quincy, Mass. financial services provider CitiStreet LLC, was even more emphatic.
“Like many IT executives, I took great offense to Ballmer's comments,” Strasnick wrote in an e-mail. CitiStreet uses Red Hat Linux widely in its data centers. “If Microsoft really thinks there is some code in Linux that violates their patents, they should publish those lines of codes immediately instead of just posturing in the press. [Fear, uncertainty and doubt] may have worked for IBM in the 1970s (some of us are old enough to have been around then), but not today.”
And Microsoft's assertions might be even backfire. “There were some applications I had been thinking about moving to a Microsoft platform, but this has now totally alienated me from Microsoft,” Strasnick said.
As mentioned in the last post, if Ballmer was using this as a litmus test, I think the response he got was clear. You'd think if Microsoft really thought they had a legitimate case, they'd probably have sued already. The problem is not only whether Microsoft code exists in Linux, but whether Linux code exists in Microsoft products. One litigation would set off a chain of others, and in the end I think we could likely get rid of any offending code (if there even is any) quicker and with less collateral damage than Microsoft could. Keep in mind that due to the Open nature of Linux code, patent violations are much less likely to exists than in the closed nature of Microsoft code where things can be hidden.
It's also good to see that the industry has gotten a bit wiser to these kinds of issues. I'd say in no small part due to the SCO case, industry tech executives are acutely aware at this point that claims like this are FUD. Not only that, you can see FUD now disenfranchises and alienates people. The industry may be at a watershed moment. One that marks the beginning of a time when the consumer is the one in charge, not the monopoly. We still have a long road ahead, but it's the rays of light like this one that recharge your batteries, rejuvenate your passion and remind you you're on the right path.
Novell, Microsoft, MSFT, Linux, GPL, Open Source