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Ballmer: Linux users owe Microsoft
ComputerWorld ^ | November 16, 2006 | Eric Lai

Posted on 11/17/2006 8:06:18 AM PST by Seņor Zorro

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.

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





TOPICS: Business/Economy; Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: ballmer; ballmerkissmy; linux; microsoft
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To: Golden Eagle
but when the existing studies including those from Linux proponents show hundreds of likely violations, and not a lack of violations, what is their chance of winning?

LOL! That was your argument for SCO winning their fiasco as well.

21 posted on 11/17/2006 2:31:38 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: Golden Eagle
...the right to use Microsoft's patented technology,

Which is what, exactly? Even Ballmer's pulling a McBride. You'd think he would've learned from SCO's mistakes.

22 posted on 11/17/2006 2:33:10 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

SCO's claims of infringement weren't ever substantiated by senior counsel at the Free Software Foundation that I recall. Please show they were, or that I ever claimed they were, or retract your bogus claim.


23 posted on 11/17/2006 2:37:00 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: ShadowAce

Ask the senior counsel at the FSF, he enumerated 283 possible violations in the kernel alone. I read somewhere the Microsoft patents included in that were around 2 dozen.


24 posted on 11/17/2006 2:39:13 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle

MS or others can sue until the cows come home but it ain't going to change the reality on the ground. Do you really think it possible to sue linux out of existence? Now it would be like trying to claim that you owned the idea of binary logic or interrupt driven IO. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but the world is going to go on using it regardless.


25 posted on 11/17/2006 2:43:07 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: ShadowAce
Which is what, exactly?

To be fair, all 5,802 issued Microsoft patents are available to the public, as published by the USPTO. Comparing the code base to the issued MS patents would answer the question what, if any, patents are being infringed. But whose job is that?

On one hand, Microsoft could do the comparison. On the other hand, I would think it prudent for a company to conduct an IP landscape survey to understand liabilities (if any) in bringing a product to market.... but hey... that's just me.

26 posted on 11/17/2006 2:50:35 PM PST by rit
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Do you really think it possible to sue linux out of existence?

Of course not. Patents are simply a form of intellectual property, and Linux doesn't get a free pass.

27 posted on 11/17/2006 2:53:11 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
retract your bogus claim.

What bogus claim? When the SCO suit started you were howling that "even the FSF admitted that Linux infringed on patents." You've been harping on that point ever since.

No one has ever substantiated it because it's never been proven true. Now you're claiming it all over again--again without any proof. Ballmer's pulling a McBride by throwing a vague reference to Linux infringing on some IP that is never referenced. Think this claim has any more credibility than SCO's? I don't.

28 posted on 11/17/2006 3:08:23 PM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
What bogus claim? When the SCO suit started you were howling that "even the FSF admitted that Linux infringed on patents."

That's pretty funny, considering the SCO lawsuit started in early 2003, and the patent study wasn't even released till end of summer 2004. Your claims are obviously bogus, as usual.

29 posted on 11/17/2006 3:16:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle

OK - you know you and MS sound a bit like John Kerry. He's always going on about how what the Swift Boat Veterans said was untrue, was defamatory blah, blah, blah.

OK so have at it in court.

Someone who's always saying he's going to sue you and then doesn't is either very indecisive or doesn't have much of a case. Usually, of course, it's the latter.


30 posted on 11/17/2006 3:23:05 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten

FYI John Kerry runs Linux on his servers just like the DNC and most democrats, and the Linux crowd is who is doing all the denying about these patent infringements. Even the FSF has sudden amnesia about their own study LOL.


31 posted on 11/17/2006 3:29:31 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Someone who's always saying he's going to sue you and then doesn't

Microsoft is putting the possible infringers on notice, as necessary. Red Hat for example can't say "we had no idea" at some point in the future.

32 posted on 11/17/2006 3:37:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
FYI John Kerry runs Linux on his servers just like the DNC and most democrats

Actually, a huge percentage of hosting services run Linux. This is probably because the Linux systems are more reliable. It's not a Democrat philosophy, but simple fact if you want something hosted reliably and well. Here are the top 10 most reliable hosting services:

Half are Linux, all but three are open source, all are UNIX. The funny part is the only services on this list who are running a proprietary OS (Solaris) are owned by those foreigners you hate so much.

BTW, want to see what Kerry actually himself uses?


33 posted on 11/17/2006 4:19:37 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Golden Eagle
Red Hat for example can't say "we had no idea" at some point in the future.

Yes they can. Microsoft would have to tell them exactly what it's claimed that they're infringing for the clock to start ticking. Again, all large software infringes on something, so you can't expect every software vendor to suddenly shut its doors because they have the knowledge that they may be theoretically infringing on a patent.

Software patents, especially of the poor quality of most of them, are damaging to all small software developers. They serve to make sure only the large development houses can stay in business.

34 posted on 11/17/2006 4:23:48 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
This really isn't about Microsoft and Novell reassuring one another that they won't sue one another.

This is about Microsoft and Novell assuring business clients that there will be no lawsuits if the business clients use linux, particularly SUSE linux.

Businesses are FAR more cautious than ordinary consumers when there is a possibility of lawsuits based on intellectual property claims. Linux stands little chance of gaining widespread acceptance in the business community until and unless underlying intellectual property disputes are resolved.

This partnership agreement in a welcome and necessary step in the maturing and mainstreaming of linux in the business world.

35 posted on 11/17/2006 4:33:13 PM PST by JCEccles
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
This really isn't about Microsoft and Novell reassuring one another that they won't sue one another.

This is about Microsoft and Novell assuring business clients that there will be no lawsuits if the business clients use linux, particularly SUSE linux.

Businesses are FAR more cautious than ordinary consumers when there is a possibility of lawsuits based on intellectual property claims. Linux stands little chance of gaining widespread acceptance in the business community until and unless underlying intellectual property disputes are resolved.

This partnership agreement is a welcome and necessary step in the maturing and mainstreaming of linux in the business world.

36 posted on 11/17/2006 4:34:09 PM PST by JCEccles
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To: antiRepublicrat

The official Republican sites RNC.ORG and GOP.COM both use Windows. And no, I don't care what Kerry uses in his office nor do I care to see a picture of him, ever.


37 posted on 11/17/2006 4:38:11 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: JCEccles
This partnership agreement in a welcome and necessary step in the maturing and mainstreaming of linux in the business world.

I agree, too bad the rest of "the linux community" is outraged and wishing the destruction of Novell now.

38 posted on 11/17/2006 4:41:44 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle; antiRepublicrat; MikefromOhio

Truth is that unlike other items, there is absolutely no standards (other than there not being an existing patent) when it comes to software.

In theory, I could copy a piece of code from the Internet that displays "Hello World" and get a patent on it (assuming somebody else hasn't done that yet).

Is it possible that the Linux kernel could have infringements? Possibly. Even antiRepublicrat mentioned that his clean-room program could very well be violating at least one patent--so it's a possibility.

OTOH Iggle, what has MS come up with that's actually innovative besides Microsoft Bob and Clippy?


39 posted on 11/17/2006 4:43:04 PM PST by rzeznikj at stout (Boldly Going Nowhere...)
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To: rzeznikj at stout

According to the patent office alone it's 5,000+ things as another poster mentioned. If you feel you can invalidate those claims I suggest you get started.


40 posted on 11/17/2006 4:56:20 PM PST by Golden Eagle
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