Microsoft: "Waaah! Linux stole our IP" (and 1337 DVD)

In today's IT Blogwatch, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer claims all your IP are belong to us. Not to mention the IT Crowd DVD's subtitles...

Eric Lai wouldn't let it lay:

In comments confirming the open-source community's suspicions, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Thursday 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 earlier this month because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and Microsoft wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation."


A key element of the agreement now appears to be Novell's US$40 million payment to Microsoft in exchange for the latter company's pledge not to sue SUSE Linux users over possible patent violations.

Todd Bishop has more:

An audience member turned the question around on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, asking if the Redmond company was selling out by collaborating with a Linux vendor. Ballmer answered the question with a long explanation of the Novell deal, from his perspective ... it will be interesting to see how people react to Ballmer's comments on Microsoft, Linux and intellectual property -- including his view that, because of the Novell deal, "only a (Linux) customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft."

Additionally, he reiterated Microsoft's interest in striking a similar patent deal with Red Hat, something Red Hat says it won't do.

Read on for the complete text. (Here's an MP3, as well: 6:01, 6.9 mb.)

Aaron, for one, welcomes his new Redmond overlords:

Just finished the keynote with Ballmer... a few observations.

1. He must've researched the question about Microsoft partnering with Novell on Suse Linux. That was too well done.

2. Steve Ballmer is a funny looking man, and his voice does weird things as he talks.

3. He didn't really do a dance, though he almost did. Sort of a weird flex/body contortion. He's like the Jim Carrey of Microsoft.

Shane Coyle calls Novell an "Open source turncoat":

I thought Novell said there were no Infractions. Or so it was stated in their FAQ on the MS Deal. Of course, as always with any story, there is Mr Ballmer’s take on the deal ... And so it begins, the gauntlet is down - who draws the first MS lawsuit? Red Hat? Oracle? EDU-Nix? Let us all remember who it is that is complicit in this FUD campaign, Novell’s self-serving deal legitimizes Microsoft’s assault on Linux.

If successful, Microsoft will create a landscape in the Operating System market that consists of themselves and MS-approved ‘competitors’ which pay royalties to MS in perpetuity, all others are sued into oblivion. Regardless of the technical wording of the deal, and whether it can be established that Novell is violating the letter of the GPL 2, they are certainly violating its spirit, Novell must not be supported.

Pamela Jones is still glad to talk about something other than SCO:

Unfortunately, Microsoft has misunderstood how the GPL works, and where it stands on the issue of patents, if one gives Microsoft every benefit of every doubt. The folks they need to speak to are the Software Freedom Law Center. Like they're not already. But here's my suggestion anyway: stop trying to kill or sidestep the GPL. And stop trying to put a patent tax on Linux, so you or some surrogate gets a cut. Monopolies don't get to do just whatever enters their pretty little head, you know. Make your money on your own code, fair and square. There. I've said it


The execution was outstanding, in a jujitsu kind of terrible way. The problem is the idea. You're trying to put new wine into old wineskins, as the saying goes, and it won't work. It can't. There will be no way to divide GPL developers into paid and not paid. Won't fly. Ever. There are other issues too. You can't restrict redistribution on GPL code. Period. You can't ask for royalties on GPL code. You can't add any restrictions to the GPL license. Seriously, you need to read the GPL and abide by it in all particulars, just like we have to respect your terms on your software. It's a matter of respecting what you call intellectual property. Explain that to your shareholders.

Microsoft's Jason Matusow responds:

I know many of you are skeptical about this process, and a few are even outright hostile ... I will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with a few key community members and these comments will inform those discussions. I will make sure your voices are heard as we go through our decision making. One thing that jumped out at me about many of these postings is the sense that a lack of trust in our motivations is a key factor for you all. I am unclear as to why then it is a problem for us to clarify something so that motivations are not an issue.

Jeff Licquia tries to help:

The big problem, if you ask me, is the distinction between “commercial” and “non-commercial” that Matusow (and everyone else I hear from Microsoft) is making. In our world, that distinction is a lot less important than the distinction between “proprietary” and “open”. For us, “commercial” is just another way software can be used, and restrictions on commercial use are like restrictions on use by women, or by people in Illinois, or by people who have ever picked their nose in public. Why are businessmen any less deserving of our software as a class than housewives, or Haitians, or other free software developers?

Matusow claims not to be interested in any of this

Kyle Shank puts it succinctly:

Ballmer can go f*** himself ... Sure Steve, all innovation had to originate from Microsoft. That’s like saying you don’t have a chronic sweating condition.

[For the latest on this story, see Novell to Ballmer: No patent problems here (and stupid CIO)] Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... IT Crowd has 1337 subtitles

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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