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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Most Recent Comments
Wesley Parish 09/07/04 07:23:53 AM EDT

Microsoft stands four-square behind their customers? In the Software Patent field?

I heard a wedding-day joke about how the happy couple should never buy their bed from such-and-such a supplier, because they always stood behind their products ... ;^) um, yeah?

Seriousness aside, I'm on the receiving end of some of Microsoft's more interesting contributions to software security, stuff that can clog up even a solely Win98 network. I would like to think Microsoft has the integrity needed to stand behind the indemnity claims a non-profit organization such as mine, has against Microsoft for its colander-style Windows security model. Standing behind patent claims, etc, has no merit, because that doesn't affect us, and besides, as Free/Libre Open Source Software users to the extent we can persuade others, we don't believe in Software Patents anyway - they're a set of bureaucraticisation of software and criminalization of independent creativity, and violate completely and utterly, all conceivable anti-trust/anticompetitive behaviour laws.

And thus, Microsoft is aiming to get a Manhattan for a few copper coins and blankets again.

Ballmer's statements lack commitment to anything real, Ballmer's comments are empty of any serious importance.

Ballmeritorious 09/04/04 11:31:21 AM EDT

Anyone ever read the dvorak column where he alleges Steve Ballmer has a secret blog. "A slew of insiders at Microsoft are now blogging. Steve Ballmer is supposed to have a secret blog someplace" - is it true?

Boston Tech Party 09/03/04 02:29:01 PM EDT

Google beware: Ballmer also said in Boston that Microsoft is "hell bent" on taking search to the next level because "people still have a hard time finding what they want to find on the Internet."

Goldman Sachs Knows Best 09/03/04 09:46:10 AM EDT

>>Every time Red Hat reports earnings, >>Microsoft seems to take a hit,' says >>Goldman Sachs software analyst Richard Sherlund.

Great quote!

Forbes2004 09/03/04 09:39:02 AM EDT

At least MSNBC which is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture reports accurately. On Aug 6 MSNBC's site carried a report from Forbes which said Microsoft "has finally met its match against software that is largely downloadable for free."

Investors discount it into the stock price, the Forbes report said, adding: "In a private meeting with executives in May, Ballmer griped that Microsoft's profits have more than doubled in the past six years, but the stock, at $29, is right where it was then. 'Linux creates a cloud of uncertainty over Microsoft. Every time Red Hat reports earnings, Microsoft seems to take a hit,' says Goldman Sachs software analyst Richard Sherlund."

Omni Magnus 09/03/04 08:52:10 AM EDT

Linux and open source will never beat Microsoft. Microsoft will crumble from within, and beat itself.

Use this link 09/03/04 08:43:24 AM EDT

We know Gates has earned around $5.3 million a day for the last two years via sales of MSFT stock...anyone know what the figure for Ballmer is?

Wagner 09/03/04 08:26:50 AM EDT

Ballmer also said the company is "humbled" by recent security lapses and promised to to fix the problems. Problem is, when Ballmer uses the word "humble," he's not using the word as you and I would use it. Here are some of the people Ballmer considers humble: Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, Liberace, Michael Jackson, and Jackie Gleason.

IP matters 09/03/04 08:22:29 AM EDT

Patenting software is like patenting the text of a book. Neither are necessary to protect IP

ChangeOrDie 09/03/04 08:19:10 AM EDT

Patents don't mean jack if the patent owner can't forcibly enforce them. The only technological reality is market presence, everything else is pretence to blur the mind. It puts the F and U in FUD. Tell "John Smith" to stop copying patented ideas, he will. Tell "China" to stop copying patented ideas, and a whole different thing occurs.

This is why patent extension and attempted enforcement of patents is so frightening. The US is hiding from the opening up of knowledge on a broad front. Business models must change, or die. Microsoft is no exception.

Anon 09/03/04 08:17:37 AM EDT

Linux is probably the very safest Operating System out there from a patent point of view, because undoubtedly Baystar/SCO and friends would have searched for any such patents critical to Linux and tried to acquire them.

I challenge Ballmer to hire someone to go through the Windows source code searcching for IP violations with the same dilligence SCO has used looking for ways to own Linux.

Respeeeect 09/03/04 08:05:26 AM EDT

As recently as April of this year here on LinuxWorld you reported that this lack-of-a-center aspect was what spooks MSFT most: "IBM's endorsement of Linux has added credibility and an illusion of support and accountability, although the reality is there is no 'center of gravity,' or central body, investing in the health and growth of noncommercial software or innovating in critical areas like engineering, manageability, compatibility and security." Back then Ballmer's conclusion seemed more respectful: "Linux requires our concentrated focus and attention" he told the troops in Redmond.

Ballmer Schmallmer 09/03/04 08:01:47 AM EDT

Steve "FUD" Ballmer, ah yes - isn't he the one who also said, back in 2001, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times: "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

Such a level-headed choice of words Mr Ballmer. NOT!!