Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft


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Source: ComputerWorld

Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft

He says the open-source operating system infringes on his company's intellectual property

In comments confirming the open-source community's suspicions, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer today declared his belief that the Linux operating system infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.

In a question-and-answer session after his keynote speech at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference in Seattle, Ballmer said Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell Inc. earlier this month because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and Microsoft wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation."

The Nov. 2 deal involves an agreement by Novell and Microsoft to boost the interoperability of their competing software products. It also calls for Microsoft to pay Novell $440 million for coupons entitling users to a year's worth of maintenance and support on SUSE Linux to its customers. In addition, Microsoft agreed to recommend SUSE software for Windows users looking to use Linux as well.

A key element of the agreement now appears to be Novell's $40 million payment to Microsoft in exchange for the latter company's pledge not to sue SUSE Linux users over possible patent violations. Also protected are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers who create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers who are paid to create code that goes into the distribution.

Many open-source advocates criticized the deal, nevertheless. They argued that it was tantamount to an admission of patent violations by a key Linux supporter that bolstered Microsoft's case if it decided press its patent claims.

At the time, Microsoft officials, including Ballmer, were mum on whether the Linux kernel, which is governed by the General Public License and takes contributions from programmers all around the world, violated Microsoft's patents.

Ballmer was more open today.

"Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. This "is important to us, because [otherwise] we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability."

"My reaction is that so far, what he [ballmer] said is just more FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt]," said Pamela Jones, editor of the Groklaw.net blog, which tracks legal issues in the open-source community. "Let him sue if he thinks he has a valid claim, and we'll see how well his customers like it."

Officials at Red Hat Inc., the leading Linux distributor, also dismissed Ballmer's comments. "We do not believe there is a need for or basis for the type of relationship defined in the Microsoft/Novell announcement," said Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel.

Red Hat has called Microsoft's legal threat a looming "innovation tax." It also said that it can protect its customers against patent claims.

Jones noted that after the Nov. 2 deal was announced, Novell said on its Web site that "the agreement had nothing to do with any known infringement. So which is true?"

Jones also challenged Ballmer to "put his money where his mouth is" and detail exactly what part of the Linux kernel source code allegedly infringes upon Microsoft patents, so that "folks will strip out the code and work around it or prove his patent invalid."

Ballmer did not provide details during his comments today. But he was adamant that Linux users, apart from those using SUSE, are taking advantage of Microsoft innovation, and that someone -- either Linux vendors or users -- would eventually have to pay up.

"Only customers that use SUSE have paid properly for intellectual property from Microsoft," he said. "We are willing to do a deal with Red Hat and other Linux distributors." The deal with SUSE Linux "is not exclusive," Ballmer added.

This is a more specific threat than Microsoft or Ballmer has claimed in the past. Rather than alluding to "possibilities", it is an outright claim that there is infringement. However, he remains deliberately ambiguous. The term "Intellectual Property" is a giveaway, as there are no "Intellectual Property" laws. There are Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents. Since Linux certainly doesn't use any Microsoft logos or trademarks, and nearly certainly doesn't use any copied source code covered by copyright, that leaves only patents. He doesn't outright say that, nor does he state what patents he believes are infringing.

Increased Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt levels with a direct attack and no details. Same old Microsoft game; they have taken IBM's FUD techniques of the 1980's and turned it into an artform. :no:

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^^^ Businesses? Especially ones with cautious legal departments (aren't most legal departments very cautious on risks, anyhow?). ;)

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Ballmer is after trouble, he's picking on Linux users for no reason why? because linux users get an Os more secure and can equally match windows and beat windows in any Os war i think he is jelous.

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This looks unsurprisingly similar to SCO's claims.

Same BS from the same morons. This just goes to show how little MS has to offer.

If MS could sue Linux they would have done that already. Even if they actually had a single patent infringed (which I'd bet they have not), they surely wouldn't like getting a taste of IBM's own patent arsenal.

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LOL!, He seems happy with "his" Windows Vista, they thought they are the best!

They want to sue Linux for nothing, wait a while and you will hear them suing Mozilla. :blink:

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FUD? Please, Pamela, let's see how unprofessional we can sound. FUD is slang that people throw around when they really can't form proper words to express themselves.

Anyway, I hope this doesn't come as a surprise to anyone because the day the Microsoft/Novell partnership was announced I think everyone on Neowin guessed that there was something else going on and now we know what it is....

...except not really since Microsoft is being so vague about its claims. I am curious exactly what patents are being infringed upon and how Microsoft can prove damages.

Linux has such a tiny, tiny user base anyway, why even bother?

I do agree with Pam on one point. Microsoft should "detail exactly what part of the Linux kernel source code allegedly infringes upon Microsoft patents so that 'folks will strip out the code and work around it'". How could Linux programmers even have a chance though if Microsoft won't tell them where the problem is?

If you have a claim, back it up. Otherwise, shut up.

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This looks unsurprisingly similar to SCO's claims.

Same BS from the same morons. This just goes to show how little MS has to offer.

If MS could sue Linux they would have done that already. Even if they actually had a single patent infringed (which I'd bet they have not), they surely wouldn't like getting a taste of IBM's own patent arsenal.

Personally, I think Microsoft was mostly behind SCO's BS from the start, and now that they see that SCO is failing in the courts, they decided to step in and try to do it themselves.

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I hate patents...

Not me:DD. As a Microsoft investor, I feel it's about time MS got the royalties they deserve from those freeloading, patent-usurping Linux users:yes:: ;)))

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Ballmer is a bit of a jerk off at times.. he needs to follow Gate's path and slowly retire.. or however Bill is doing it.

Ballmer honestly does give Microsoft alot of reason to recieve the negative feedback it does. I honestly believe Microsoft is a really powerful company with good direction.. but with people like Ballmer to halt things and kick everyone in the ass, it makes me wonder how much longer this will go on.

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Not me :D. As a Microsoft investor, I feel it's about time MS got the royalties they deserve from those freeloading, patent-usurping Linux users :yes: (;))
:rofl:

You forgot "communist hippies". ;)

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... but I HATE THEM.
"Fear is the path to the dark side.

Fear leads to anger.

Anger leads to hate. <- You are here

Hate leads to suffering."

-- Yoda

:p

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As I said in Fred's thread:

I think that there will be some clashes in the near future over this. I really take issue with Novell for deciding on this "partnership" before all of the angles were researched. Microsoft will probably end up in the same battle as SCO..... and the whole aspect of GPL will need to be ruled on. Until then, MS is going to continue to spead FUD to everyone who will listen to their BS........

Barney

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Well the poll on my site does not lie: http://gnuman.com/index.php?option=com_pol...sults&id=20

Also in other news, I was mentioned on Amazon.com!

http://www.amazon.com/Official-Ubuntu-Book...TF8&s=books

Posting your own review doesn't count as "being mentioned" :rolleyes:

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the real problem with modern corporations and share ownership is that people can own shares and profit from a companys success without having to think about how that success was won. morality is destroyed and responsiblity for ethics is kept at arms length.

when a company pays you part of the profits, you are or should consider yourself moraly responsible for hwo that company got those profits. of course most peopel dont really care how they get their cash as long as they get it :|

btw, how much do micrsoft owe to linux? thats a good question, better than the one ballme is asking :rolleyes:

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