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Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft

By Eric Lai
November 16, 2006 12:00 PM ET

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.

Robert McMillan, of the IDG News Service, contributed to this report.

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