Ballmer repeats threats against Linux
February 21, 2007 1 Comment
Novell execs must cringe when they see things like this:
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 week, 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.”
He almost makes it sound like the real value to Microsoft, and the real intention of the agreement, was simply to posture for further protection money from others. I wonder how Novell feels about that in retrospect. Matt Asay asks: “Steve Ballmer: Was this the friend Novell wanted?” I think the answer to that is now clear.
I still wonder if Microsoft realistically thinks they can sue. The amount of potential litigation that could get thrown back is substantial. Red Hat seems to be one of the more likely Microsoft targets, but don't forget that the likes of IBM depend on Linux sales for large chunks of consulting money. It's even more interesting now that Oracle is selling what is in essence a RHEL clone. At this point in the game, I wonder how effective this kind of FUD slinging really is anyway. A few of years ago, many people were fooled. These days, that's certainly changing. Ballmer, it would seem, is not changing with the times. It's unfortunate, as some parts of Microsoft seem to be be attempting to.