On the heels of the recent Microsoft / Novell patent and business collaboration announcement, many in the open source community have speculated that Microsoft, feeling the pressure from ever advancing Linux technologies and increasing adoption by system vendors, is looking for an easy in to the Linux and open source community. During a session yesterday morning at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) summit in Seattle, an audience member asked Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, if the Redmond company was selling out by collaborating with a Linux vendor.
Ballmer said Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell earlier this month because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and Microsoft wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation." "We've had an issue, a problem that we've had to confront, which is because of the way the GPL (General Public License) 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. The truth is, because of the complex licensing around the GPL, we actually didn't want to do one without the other.
The entire text as well as an MP3 of the conversation can be found on Todd Bishop's Microsoft Blog over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.