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Microsoft CEO Ballmer: "In the Linux World, Nobody Stands Behind Patent Claims"

Microsoft CEO Ballmer: "In the Linux World, Nobody Stands Behind Patent Claims"

"I'm not trying to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Wednesday in an address to members of the Massachusetts Software Council, "I just think people should go out and research this for themselves."

Ballmer was referring - what else? - to Microsoft's claims that, since MS platforms interoperate more readily with other MS technology such as .NET, the TCO of Windows is less than that of Linux. Ballmer told Council members too about how his contention was backed up by the now-infamous Forrester Research Inc. study, which was sponsored by Microsoft.

For someone "not trying to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt" Ballmer then elected to do what many observers feel is exactly that, mentioning that those who go with Linux need to worry about SCO's various lawsuits - against IBM, DaimlerChrysler, and Novell - while Microsoft, even if it loses its current patent dispute with Eolas Technologies, would stand four-square behind its customers and indemnify them from any financial ramifications of the potential $500 million-plus award.

"In the Linux world, nobody stands behind patent claims," Ballmer declared - the clear inference being that in the Microsoft world, Microsoft does.

He also took the opportunity of this Boston speaking event to claim that Windows developers as a community are more cohesive than the open-source development community.

In other words, he pulled no punches. It was in some way reminiscent the time back in July 2000 when, at Microsoft's annual financial analysts meeting in Seattle, Ballmer ranked Linux the no. 3 threat to Microsoft after Sun and Oracle.

Back then Ballmer underlined "the competitive threat, and in some senses the competitive opportunity, that Linux represents."

"Linux is a tough competitor. There's no company called Linux, there's barely a Linux road map. Yet Linux sort of springs organically from the earth."

Ballmer back then went on to talk about "the characteristics of communism that people love so very, very much about it. That is, it's free. And I'm not trying to make fun of it, because it's a real competitive issue. Today, I would say, we still don't see a lot of Linux competition in most quarters on the desktop, and we see a lot of Linux competition in some server markets. And we could either say, hey, Linux is going to roll over the world, but I don't see that happening. That's not what's going on right now."

Four years on, not all that much has changed in Ballmer's approach. He still sees the Achilles heel of Linux as being the fact that no-one is in charge.

Ballmer was keynoting the Massachusetts Software Council's Fall Membership Meeting, attended by several hundred members of the region's software industry leaders. Aside from Linux, he spoke about new technologies and trends, Microsoft's research and development focus for the next 10 years, and the future of IT spending.

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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