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Ballmer Repeats Threats Against Linux 470

daria42 writes "Steve Ballmer has reissued Microsoft's patent threat against Linux, warning open-source vendors that they must respect his company's intellectual property. In a no-nonsense presentation to New York financial analysts last week, Microsoft's chief executive said the company's partnership with Novell, which it signed in November 2006, "demonstrated clearly the value of intellectual property, even in the open-source world.""
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Ballmer Repeats Threats Against Linux

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  • I do not get this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reverse Gear ( 891207 ) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:00AM (#18095746) Homepage
    I wonder how Balmer thinks that they are going to sue something that no one owns, that no one made.

    Is he going to sue anyone who uses this?
    Is he going to sue those who hoste the code?

    From the article it seems it is mostly the Linux vendors that Ballmer wants to target.

    The US is, as far as I know, the only country that has implented all these sick software patent laws until now, how are they going to sue a UK based company?

    With the current state of things the worst that could happen is that companies stop using Linux in the US, I don't see how they want to sue anyone based in Europe?
    Would the US government then start supporting Microsoft in trade wars?

    This whole software patent thing is beyond my understanding, I wonder if anyone out there really get the idea behind this?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:04AM (#18095802)
      There's another name for this technique: "protection money". You don't actually need a reason to request such money, you just need to be strong enough.
      • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:58AM (#18096582) Homepage Journal
        This is exactly right. Ballmer is the mob boss threatening to kill you if you don't pay up. The mob boss knows it's bad for business to actually kill everyone who owes you money, because then they can't pay. But Ballmer's words are even less intimidating because everyone knows that if they had any case legally they would have used it by now. Their stock has been relatively flat for more than 5 years and profits were barely higher last year. The only event investors look forward to is new releases of their 2 cash cows. If they actually had IP to leverage they could rake in billions. There's no reason to wait years to do it.

        All of his talk it hot air. He's hoping to convince investors to bump up his stock. That's why he's trying to convince analysts to raise their estimates. Fortunately most seem to be smart enough to wait for an actual significant lawsuit before reporting that MSFT is set to raise a fortune leveraging this IP.
        • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:08PM (#18097616)

          There's no reason to wait years to do it.

          Yes, let's play Global Thermonuclear War.

          One reason that Microsoft doesn't start suing Linux vendors and users is that there are so many trivial software patents around owned by numerous other industry players that they might very well launch a devastating attack on Microsoft. I'm sure that if IBM put effort into it, it could find that Microsoft is violating 1,000 of its patents. And Microsoft would find that IBM is violating 300 of its patents. And the other players launch off their missiles. Industry-wide disaster ensues.

          The only winning move is not to play.

          • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:27PM (#18097882)
            If the bloated corporations abusing intellectual property law started suing each other into bankrupcy, the downside would be... what, exactly?
            • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:53PM (#18098312) Homepage
              The downside? I'm pretty sure it would lead to a CSI: Intellectual Property, and nobody wants that.
            • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@nOSpam.xoxy.net> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:09PM (#18098570) Homepage Journal
              If the bloated corporations abusing intellectual property law started suing each other into bankrupcy, the downside would be... what, exactly?

              Unemployment, for me personally, and probably a whole lot of other people.

              Those big corporations fund a lot of other software development -- directly, in the case of IBM and Sun and some others, but indirectly in the case of tons of other companies, just because they provide a day job for people who otherwise would be spending 15 hours a day delivering pizzas or waiting tables to pay the bills.

              Your attitude is sorta like a guy in Guam saying "hey, if the USA and the USSR wipe themselves out tomorrow, where's the downside?" Well, the downside is that the world just ended.
            • Lawyers get rich. (Score:3, Insightful)

              by FatSean ( 18753 )
              Everyone loses when lawyers get rich gaming the system of laws that they created.
          • by npsimons ( 32752 ) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:15PM (#18098686) Homepage Journal

            The only winning move is not to play.

            Ha! Cute and pop culture reference all in one! I bet you actually believe that too. Let me give you a hint: no one would die if everyone started suing everyone else for patent violation. At worst, it would destroy the industry, in which case something better would spring up in it's place. Ever hear of supply and demand? More likely (and a better outcome) is that it would do massive damage to a lot of companies and point out how destructive and backwards software patents really are. Then people would demand patent reform and maybe we could go back to the important business of advancing the art. The only similarity that the current patent madness has with cold war MAD is the stupidity and shortsightedness of those involved. The results of ending the ceasefire aren't even comparable, even on an analogy level.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by tsa ( 15680 )
              I almost hope for a patent war. I'd love to see that develop. I think in the end, everyone will be better off after that war is over.
      • I agree, Ballmer is a bully. Ballmer has taken his ignorant behavior to an extreme, in my opinion: He is a prime example of someone who lacks social skills and technical insight, who can only survive in a technical world by being adversarial toward those who would rather not have a fight.

        Don't forget: Microsoft's Zune music player is named after Creative's excellent Zen Player [creative.com]. Aside from being morally criminal to infringe on someone else's intellectual property, it's just mean.

        If the world were technically knowledgeable enough not to be locked into Microsoft's file formats and virtual OS monopoly, and other adversarial behavior, Microsoft could not make a profit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Akvum ( 580456 )
      Well, if Linux users/vendors become persona non grata in the USA, there's always BSD... Until M$ decides to make the old saying "BSD is dying" come true. Either that or there's simply going to another country that isn't becoming a fascistic corporation whore.
    • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:07AM (#18095852)

      I wonder how Balmer thinks that they are going to sue something that no one owns, that no one made.

      Is he going to sue anyone who uses this?

      Is he going to sue those who hosts the code?


      And, it looks like the EU is starting to move the same direction as the USA with respect to IP laws, so don't think you Europians will get a "walk" on this. Microsoft sees a major crack in their entire philosophy of business, and they will use their finantial advantage to stamp out those who get in their way. Watch out, SCO was just fodder, the real fight is yet to come.

      • Re:I do not get this (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:57AM (#18096574) Journal
        And, it looks like the EU is starting to move the same direction as the USA with respect to IP laws, so don't think you Europians will get a "walk" on this.

        We fought it, it finished by a draw but we will keep on fighting. Currently we are in a gray situation : software patents are forbidden but the European Patent Office deliver software patents on a daily basis. It is illegal but there are no institution to slap it and make it stop. So many companies own European Software patents, hoping they will one day have a legal value. I am not aware of one actually used in trial ...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jrockway ( 229604 )
        > Watch out, SCO was just fodder, the real fight is yet to come.

        Says someone named "Frosty Piss" with no references. Nice troll.
    • by mosch ( 204 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:24AM (#18096082) Homepage
      It's just a FUD campaign.

      If they had a real argument they would have taken it to court by now. Failure to do so would be contrary to MSFT shareholder interests.
      • by a_n_d_e_r_s ( 136412 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:38AM (#18096272) Homepage Journal
        Well, there are two options:

        1. Ballmer is right and are not protecting shareholders interest.

        2. Ballers is wrong and are lying to his shareholders.

        Whats true ? Whats worse ? Either way - he's out on a limb on this one - wonder who will push him off it ?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Atzanteol ( 99067 )
        In any war there is always loss on both sides. The winner is simply that which has lost the least. The best way to win a war is to never have to fight it to begin with.

        Ballmer spreading FUD is the latter approach. It doesn't mean he doesn't think he could win a confrontation, but that he'd rather not have one if it isn't necessary. How is that not protecting shareholder interests?

      • by a.d.trick ( 894813 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:28AM (#18097012) Homepage

        IANAL, but isn't this considered slander (or libel)? Why doesn't IBM or Redhat take MSFT to court and tell them to either substantiate their FUD or pay damages. There should be no excuse for this kind of abuse by someone as high profile as Ballmer.

        • Why doesn't IBM or Redhat take MSFT to court and tell them to either substantiate their FUD or pay damages.

          Because this is not a copyright battle. It is concepts and many things that open source didn't think were patentable, has been patented at about the same time as prior art, or before.

          Remember the MS and Apple fight over a trash can. MS code for a trash can was not copied from Apple. MS lost because the trash can itself was patented. MS managed to slide by using a recycle bin as something that is no
    • by raffe ( 28595 ) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:32AM (#18096190) Journal
      They will and can sue Red Hat. Red Hat sells the software that Microsoft claims to own ip in. Red Hat will not sue any person that has contributed code to them. No, IBM wont come to the rescue, only you and I can do that. So do buy a copy of there software to support them. Or you can do as I do, become a member of fsf here [fsf.org]
      • by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:11AM (#18096772) Homepage

        there software

        Where software?

      • Re:I do not get this (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:24AM (#18096964) Homepage
        If they don't speak up now, they can't sue for damages- only a stop of the use of their patents.

        It's called Laches, and it means "delay" in legalese. It means they can certainly tell us what
        they have and get us to remove, but now that they've opened their mouth (via Ballmer's mouthing off)
        they can't really do much except get us to sidestep. Before too long, they're going to step off
        into Lanham Act territory like SCOX has done (if they've not already...). It's a rather dangerous
        game they're playing here- IBM and a few others won't tolerate much more of this BS without them
        putting up or shutting up.

        The reality is, MS would have ALREADY sued for damages, etc. if they actually had
        any real beef to that crap Ballmer keeps spouting. I'm wondering if someone can make a Class Action
        of a Lanham Act suit...
      • Re:I do not get this (Score:5, Interesting)

        by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @02:18PM (#18099572)
        IBM has been coming to the rescue for years and has granted hundreds if not thousands of patent licenses to the linux community.

        Linux isn't going anywhere. Microsoft would only prevail in getting enforced what it can prove, and even then the precedents that prohibited the Z4 company from keeping MS from selling XP will prevail in the Linux community.

        Ballmer is using threats and FUD to keep Linux from expanding further by threatening the distros and then telling the financial analysts that they should not use those products because the distros are a prime target.

        It's an idiotic move and it will hurt Microsoft even more. Don't think big corporates have major investments in Linux? Think again. It's massive.

        This just shows that Microsoft is going to become the biggest looser.

        Look, if one technology is infringing it doesn't mean the whole Linux is infringing. He'd have to prove first that those are infringing and that the distros knew it. He's just trying to keep more distros from popping up and from proliferating. He's trying to provide less incentive to start a new distro that would innovate since most distros lock themselves into an ideology and never reinvent themselves. If he has fewer distros cropping up with innovative things then the old ones will die sooner or later but he's only going to accomplish this by FUD threats. He can't accomplish it by revealing how weak his hand is.

        If there's a violation in Linux tell the community. Put up or shut up Ballmer is the only voice he should hear from the community. And yes, there are weapons in various other arsenals that can be wielded against Microsoft.

        This is a no win situation for them. They can only succeed by threats. Any action defeats their purpose. Threats fulfill their purpose. The community must ask in one voice: WHERE AM I INFRINGING? That is what will defeat their threats.
    • Sabre rattling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slofstra ( 905666 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:40AM (#18096324) Homepage
      This sabre rattling against Linux has potential adverse effects for the entire economy, if Microsoft is able to push Windows into every corner. Windows is just terrible in certain situations, such as ATMs and aruably, pocket PCs and handheld devices. Perhaps the government should be looking into anti-trust; we need to see competition in the market place for operating systems.
    • by Mick Ohrberg ( 744441 ) <mick DOT ohrberg AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:45AM (#18096390) Homepage Journal
      Correct me if I'm wrong, but it does appear that the 'new black' in business philosophy these days is "If I can't out-compete you, I'm going to try to out-litigate you". Then again, business is turning into a spectator sport.
      • by dwandy ( 907337 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:43PM (#18099138) Homepage Journal

        "If I can't out-compete you, I'm going to try to out-litigate you"
        Maybe I just don't see it elsewhere, but it seems that this is an American phenomenon.
        For example, when vehicle emissions standards starting increasing a while back, US automakers hired lobyists to change the law, while the Japanese hired engineers to meet the law.
        One country's cars now meet emissions world wide, and the other makes cars that can't be sold in various markets.

        I know lobbying is not the same as litigating, but imho it's the same mentality: If you can't compete with your product, compete by working the legal system.

    • by yoder ( 178161 ) * <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:46PM (#18099184) Homepage Journal
      Mr. Ballmer is a sane, level-headed man who knows exactly what he is talking about.

      And I, of course, am Napoleon!
    • by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:52PM (#18099278)
      Microsoft is faltering under Steve Ballmer. It has had almost 30 years of dominance but with Ballmer in charge it is loosing its edge. This is because Ballmer controls by threats.

      How is it that a company such as Microsoft feels they can enter our homes and rifle through our stuff to prove that we are stealing from them? That's what their DRM and WGA is all about. You would never let anyone enter your home, even the police, without a warrant, to go through your stuff in order to prove you have stolen something. Our computers are an extension of our homes. You would never let a private individual come into your home and search it. You should not be allowing Microsoft to do that.

      Ballmer knows his Vista is a series of technologies that are used to do just that. I suspect there are many other hidden technologies which they have incorporated into the OS to keep them in control. Well, Vista is a pig with lipstick. Ballmer reminds me of the joke of the farmer who wanted the prize pig at the county fair so he stuck a cork in the pigs ass in order to make it appear larger than it was. One day at the fair the monkey got curious and pulled the cork. Shit went flying. It was quite laughable to see the poor monkey working so hard to get the cork back in the pigs ass.

      Right now Vista isn't selling. Ballmer proclaims it is the pirates and threatens everyone. He threatens to kick up the WGA levels in Vista. This is something no one I have heard from even attempts to analyze. What are those levels? Did everyone agree to those extremely strict levels when they purchased Vista. Did they even know that those were there? Are they spying on the user? If so, are they not in violation of many State and Federal laws?

      What Ballmer doesn't want to accept is that the reason Vista isn't selling is because it is a bloated piece of DRM lopped on top of XP with a pretty interface which can easily be gotten by using another OS and installing Beryl. What Ballmer doesn't accept is that we don't want their DRM. We don't want their CRM. We don't want those huge hardware requirements to get a simple half-decade long update to XP to run on our computers. We don't want the hassles of their weak security parading as strength. Of course you all have heard about how any malware program with a setup program runs as administrator. That's a HUGE HUGE HUGE security hole and essentially wipes their security off the map. Also their UAC boxes provide virtually no information about what is happening so everyone either turns it off or always allows.

      So, we have a not so secure OS that has a pretty face that is filled with what I suspect are hidden technologies that govern the DRM and CRM that the consumer knows nothing about and didn't agree to purchase nor license, and that this is done possibly in violation of State and Federal laws. This makes this a pig with lipstick. It could only happen from a monopoly company. Competition would not allow this.

      So now that the argument about piracy of Vista is failing (remember back when Gates and company stated that it would be impossible to pirate Vista?), they are realizing that people are choosing to change to Linux instead of Vista due to a stronger security, open tools, rapid development, a prettier interface, a solid core OS Kernel, and all the features one would expect from an OS of that level (Vista's level), and more. So he simply starts the FUD machine.

      Microsoft can't sue anyone until they tell those companies exactly what they are doing wrong or they'll be seen as litigious fools. They have to tell them precisely what the infringements are and give them an opportunity to fix them. Even if they do file suit without doing that it will still require that they show where Linux is infringing and that Microsoft own the IP specific to those infringements. They also have to go against some of the largest corporations in the world.

      You should not misinterpret what Ballmer is doing. He's just doing more of this management by threat pract
  • SCO (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:01AM (#18095752) Homepage Journal
    So MS is now short for MegaSCO?

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:03AM (#18095790)
    IBM is still digging into SCO's near corpse to find the detials of SCO's accusations. Which were, are and for ever more shall be totally bogus.

    Ballmer needs to stop saying "they stole our IP" and start citing versions, files, lines and patent numbers. Otherwise Microsoft looks like a bigger SCO. And that is not a pretty picture for a company like Microsoft intends itself to be.
    • by jeevesbond ( 1066726 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:33AM (#18096196) Homepage

      IBM is still digging into SCO's near corpse to find the detials of SCO's accusations. Which were, are and for ever more shall be totally bogus.

      The difference between the two cases is SCO claimed copyright infringement whereas Microsoft is claiming patent infringement (I believe).

      Software patents are so much more vague than copyright, so there's a good chance some of the GNU/Linux operating system is infringing. Remember the study that found 283 possible software patent infringements [internetnews.com] in the Linux kernel alone? I would be suprised if some of those didn't belong to Microsoft (and that was 2004, there are probably more now).

      This public sabre-rattling is not without basis. Seems to me that Microsoft are keeping the specifics under wraps, then threatening companies with them in private. Remember what ex-Novell employee said in this interview [itworldcanada.com]? Here's a reminder:

      I mean I have had people come up to me and essentially off the record admit that they had been threatened by Microsoft and had got patent cross license and had essentially taken out a license for Microsoft patents on the free software that they were using, which they then cannot redistribute.

      It's also funny you should mention this:

      Otherwise Microsoft looks like a bigger SCO.

      Some people (including this respected legal blogger [lamlaw.com]--at the bottom of that article) believe Microsoft funded and put SCO up to its anti-GNU/Linux FUD litigation. So, really they are a bigger SCO!

    • by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:45AM (#18096378)
      I thought this played out once before in court. Only that time poor poor Microsoft was the innocent defendent and big bad Apple was the Evil litigator. As I recall, Apple lost. Ballmer should remember his chair is for sitting on and calm down!
  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:04AM (#18095800)
    when he throws a chair.
  • ... to throw chairs at your underlings.
  • Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheWoozle ( 984500 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:06AM (#18095836)
    To: Steve Ballmer

    Dear sir,

    Either file suit against the parties infringing on your precious IP, or SHUT THE FUCK UP.


    P.S. - Vista blows donkey balls.
    • Re:Whatever (Score:4, Insightful)

      by debest ( 471937 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:18AM (#18096014)

      Either file suit against the parties infringing on your precious IP, or SHUT THE FUCK UP.

      That's the beauty of FUD. Microsoft's voice is always going to be louder than ours. We can tell them to STFU, but they don't have to! We can call their bluff, and demand they file their lawsuits against open-source "patent infringers". They don't have to!

      FUD can kill a traditional competitor (see Amdahl vs IBM, where I believe the term was coined), but against OSS it is only a bump in the road. You're right, in that eventaully Microsoft will actually have to have friendly legislation and/or success with patents to keep its current position of dominance in the software world, but in the meantime FUD is all they have, and you can be sure that they will continue slinging it hard for the foreseeable future (whether we like it or not).
    • Ballmer's reasons (Score:5, Interesting)

      by g2devi ( 898503 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:36AM (#18097172)
      The reason Ballmer doesn't say anything is simple. If he did, one or more of three things would happen:
      * The code would be immediately rewritten.
      * The patent would be challenged and they would likely lose it
      * Patent wars between Linux supporters and Microsoft would begin, with the end result that either all the patents would be invalidated or no software would be able to ship or patents would be so massively cross-licensed that they would effectively be meaningless.

      By playing coy, Ballmer is actually hurting his case. If he's bluffing, he's basically running a protection racket. He's basically saying we know there's a problem but we're not going to tell you what it is because we want to ambush you in the future.

      Neither of these two options are looked too kindly by judges.

      And since all Linux projects are done out in the open with full disclosure and most have the policy that "if there is a dispute, we'll rewrite the code" (even Mono has this provision), and is often done by volunteers who want to fill a need (e.g. schools, 3rd world, etc), it would be easy to portray Linux in a favourable light to the judge.

      Unfortunately, Novell handed them a source of SCO-like FUD that obscures these issues.

      So Novell, here's my request to you. Even if you can't get out of the MS deal, could you cut the knees off of the MS FUD by writing a legal document that states categorically that:
      1) The deal is not about patents and if Microsoft believes that the deal is, then it now hereby waves any protection from Microsoft
      2) That to the best of Novell's knowledge, Linux is not in violation of any patents.
      3) That unless Ballmer states what Linux IP is in place, Novell will have no choice but to file a sue Microsoft on Liable and/or extortion charges.

      If Novell did this, and followed through on (3) with the help of other Linux distros if Ballmer doesn't shut up, then the Novell-MS deal FUD would vanish and Novell would regain much of it's previous respect.
  • Distraction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by technomancerX ( 86975 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:07AM (#18095856) Homepage
    Ballmer's Thought Process:

    Hmmm Vista is floundering and we need to distract the press from this and the piracy angle isn't working... what can we do... oh yeah, let's threaten open source, that should distract them.


    Hmmm Vista sales are floundering, and even I'm not stupid enough to really think it's piracy causing it, Hmmmm.... it must be that open source stuff, time to threaten to sue somebody.
  • by jeevesbond ( 1066726 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:09AM (#18095878) Homepage
    Does anyone remember that South Park episode where Cartman became a cop?

    Just think of Ballmer with those aviator sunglasses on (that had the reflection of mountains in the background) shouting: 'You will respect my intellectual propertayyyyy!!!'
  • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:10AM (#18095900)

    I somehow doubt Microsoft would be foolish enough to actually fire off patent suits . . . especially when there are other big players with massive patent portfolios and a vested interest in Linux . . .

    Secretary: "Mr. Ballmer, I have a group of IBM attorneys in the lobby asking to see you, shall I let them in?"

    Ballmer: "My God Man! Do they want to settle my patent suit against Linux?"

    Secretary: "I'm not sure what they want sir . . . but they brought a flag.

  • by Snowcap557 ( 883211 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:11AM (#18095914)
    Linus Torvalds will come home and find the head of a penguin in his bed.
    • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:50AM (#18096476)
      Makes me wonder if some small garage GNU/Linux shop can't sue Microsoft for these statements. Some garage shop with an annual revenue stream in the 10's of thousands( or less ) so that any counter suit, if any, couldn't justify millions or billions, dozens of lawyers over years like the SCO case has done. Just a quiet local court case to see WTF Balmer is talking about and to get this out in the open ASAP.

      I was really disappointed that Iowa was bought-out by MSFT like all the others. I was just getting used to the Friday night laughs from public court documents from that case. And was so looking forward to hearing the MSFT Execs on the stand.

  • by danpsmith ( 922127 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:12AM (#18095924)

    Hobbyists and free software advocates have succeeded where Bill Gates [blinkenlights.com] said they could not. They have put out a usable, alternative to solution to just about everything. This irritates people in the lock'em'in software business, as suddenly now they have competition that not only won't just go away, but is demanding and developing alternative standards to proprietary formats.

    They are not only threatening as a competitor, but they threaten companies like MS with eventual obsolescence. And let's face it: no company wants to deal with something that will eventually put them out of business if it succeeds.

    What's funny about Linux is that it is sort of a Microsoft tactic to get rid of competitors, namely, we'll give it away. That's how they put Netscape out of business, how they attained so much market share in media players, etc. Linux is the ultimate "we'll give it away" solution, giving away everything even the OS.

    You can see why software businesses could feel threatened by Linux, but legally, they probably don't have a leg to stand on either way. Nobody can say they own a patent to a generic GUI, when Apple, MS, OS/2, etc. etc. have all used GUIs. Linux is in little to no legal trouble. But it's the last leg that they can stand on when competing for enterprise marketshare when all the other FUD runs through.

    They are protecting what may soon be a failing business model: the proprietary software development house.

  • by kosh ( 4232 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:16AM (#18095968)
    How long ago was it that Microsoft was complaining that the better product should prevail due to competition and not through litigation in the courts?

    Seems that they are now changing their tune... I'm not surprised...
  • BSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:17AM (#18095986) Homepage
    Here's the threat. The Business Software Alliance [bsa.org] already can come in and audit companies for bootleg copies of Microsoft software. If they've forced their way in to do an audit anyway, and they find "unauthorized copies" of Microsoft-claimed "IP" - which is to say, Linux running - then in the future they can try to levy the same penalties against you as they currently do for running more copies of Office than you can produce licenses for.

    From our perspective, this absolutely has to be stopped. But the BSA already has the legal authority to get in the door in many cases, and once they're looking at your systems for Microsoft wares, they'd better be checking the Linux boxes for Word running under Wine anyway - so checking them for Linux is a minor afterthought.
  • by boxlight ( 928484 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:18AM (#18096020)
    Microsoft spent the last 20 years copying ideas from Apple, Netscape, Sun, AOL, Burst, and Google -- and now they have the nerve to complain that Linux looks like Windows??

  • by CodeShark ( 17400 ) <`ellsworthpc' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:22AM (#18096060) Homepage
    Suppose Ballmer et. al manage to isolate some IP, manage to win the case, and then try to sue any company that sells or distributes the offending IP. Could put a serious cash flow dent in a competitor for a short period of time. Assume also that the M$ police can manage to pull an RIAA and threaten any non-corporate entity with a "roll your own" Linux distribution, and spend a hellacious amount of money doing it. An expenditure that probably wouldn't go over real well with the stock holders or market analysts.

    In both cases there would be a brief chilling effect on the competition -- until the offending IP is pulled out of the Linux core and it is recompiled, at which point M$ has nothing. Except that in the mean time they may get hauled back into court for anti-monopoly practices, and that offending the highly intelligent Linux community is about as smart as kicking over a nest of fire ants -- because every major bit of M$ released code will be targeted for suing M$ for their own patent infringing code, etc.

    So Ballmer's threat is akin to a robber pulling a gun in a doughnut shop only to discover that he is surrounded by a room full of well-armed, motivated policeman who would like nothing more than to put his sorry a$$ back where it belongs. We all know this, and M$ knows it as well. But so long as he can sell a few more copies of Vista, XP, etc. Ballmer has little to lose by acting the bully in the mean time.

    • by remmelt ( 837671 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:43AM (#18096342) Homepage
      I agree with your statement, but:

      > until the offending IP is pulled out of the Linux core

      remember that when we're talking about a software PATENT, it's not the implementation that is patented, it's the idea. Simplified, if MS would hold the patent on "interfacing with a magnetic data carrier", Linux couldn't be able to have code that saves stuff on a disk, because that's what the patent covers. It's not the actual code that was stolen/borrowed, it's the idea of "interfacing with a magnetic data carrier" that cannot be implemented in any way without licensing the idea from the patent's owner.

      Now you can see why software patents are bullshit.
  • How's the FUD coming?

    This is a classic case of casting fear, uncertainty, and doubt on a competing product. Lame. How about they spend that time and money making their own products better?

  • by fizzbin ( 110016 ) *
    otherwise MS would actually name the patents, so Open-Source projects would avaoid them, and so Open-Source users would be confident of their status.

    But confidence in Opoen-Source is exactly what MS doesn't want.
  • Nice to hear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hallie_ball ( 36026 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:30AM (#18096168)
    It is very nice to hear Mr Ballmer yelling (cursing) this way, it means he is affraid for open source, open source is making more revenue then Mr ballmer wants.

    So guys keep on the good work, when Mr Ballmer is yelling like a fool, the work is very good.

    Thank you developers for this nice moment.
  • by shirizaki ( 994008 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:32AM (#18096184)
    You are reissuing empty threat against Open Source. (Cancel/Allow)?
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:37AM (#18096264) Homepage Journal
    Remember folks, Ballmer was talking to financial analysts, not technology people. Ballmer loves to grandstand when he's talking to money. And someday his big mouth is going to get him in trouble.
  • by RalphSouth ( 89474 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:41AM (#18096328)
    IBM has a big stake in LINUX continuing as it is. A relatively large percentage of their big mainframes are sold with LINUX running on them. The reason for having a large number of patents is to have the leverage to negotiate mutual use agreements. Balmer and MS will cause trouble by forcing some sort of mutual use agreement while spreading fear and doubt in the potential users of LINUX.

    MS has got to be feeling some pressure with lack luster VISTA success. They have huge amounts of cash; but, the business analysts have to be wondering how long it will last if their cash cows start to under produce. When stocks sell at large multiples of their earnings the price is set by confidence that the company's earnings will increase at a steady rate. If confidence in the company's ability should fail, MS would be very disrupted. It hasn't happened yet; but, they have to allay the fears of people who recommend stocks.
  • by Ranger ( 1783 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:41AM (#18096330) Homepage
    Look at him go! [google.com]
  • by Weedlekin ( 836313 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:57AM (#18096576)
    Because who else except a floundering closed-source company that bought a Linux distro in a desperate attempt to find a new business model could unanimously act as IP Position spokesman for the entire "open source world", as His Ballmerness so eloquently put it?
  • SCO & Microsoft (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:59AM (#18096614)
    Just as the SCO matter looks like winding down (with The SCO Group running out of money to fund the bogus legal action) up pops Microsoft repeating exactly the same accusations and, in the same manner as Darl, not identifying the IP that they claim is theirs.

    It's time to challenge Microsoft. Either identify by file and line, the code that they believe is their IP or shut up.

    Linux source is visible to all. Even Ballmer can download and grep through it. SCO did and couldn't find their IP.

    Microsoft think that they are legally untouchable. Prove them wrong.
  • Think SCO... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JetScootr ( 319545 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:17AM (#18096852) Journal
    with 50 billion bucks and a still-functioning business model to use in suing the world. M$ is so fricken big that one workable legal tactic is to hire all the best lawfirms so you can't get a good lawyer.
    I don't think he's blowing smoke as some have suggested. I really think M$ wants to sue anyone and everyone until they have finally broken Linux.
    M$'s real strategic difficulty is doing this without triggering antitrust actions, class action suits from competitors, a genuine revolt from other countries, the software industry,etc. Global-sized coordinated opposition is preventing M$ from launching RIAA-style attacks on the world.
    Oh, and one other thing is at least slowing them down: The complete and utter invalidity in any such claims.
  • by blindd0t ( 855876 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:20AM (#18096900)

    From the TFA:

    "But I don't want to eliminate in your minds the notions of risk of pricing that comes from competition with open source. We are higher priced, but we bring greater value," Ballmer added.

    Maybe my interpretation is wrong, but I interpreted this as him clearly stating that Linux is cheaper than Windows. What ever happened to "Get the Facts?"

  • Outlaw FUD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattr ( 78516 ) <mattrNO@SPAMtelebody.com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:37AM (#18097186) Homepage Journal
    Here's a question. If Linux was a single company's product like MS Windows is of Microsoft, couldn't legal measures be taken against the convicted monopoly arch-rival from this sort of action? That is, why can't the SCO/MS strategy of FUD without providing evidence be outlawed? Maybe we need a new law to outlaw FUD, especially when it comes from a convicted monopoly. Something to cut through the legal games.

    Certainly the totally opaque Novell deal is not clear at all. That journalists and publications who publish such drivel are even respected is also bizarre to me.

    It seems that as governments of individual jurisdictions switch more and more to Linux, they will get more tired of FUD and perhaps even lean toward outlawing or defanging such unfounded threats. If so that would mean Balmer's tactics amount to rushing to spread as much FUD as possible before this window closes.

    To me, linux is already a key part of the U.S.' national infrastructure. Why can't it do anything to muzzle this crap? FUD is bad for the economy.
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:45AM (#18097270)
    that Microsoft funded/used/fronted SCO for a dummy run to see how the world would respond, and what mistakes not to make when MS do their own run against Linux.

    Given that the SCO case is still ongoing (just), it seems Microsoft is setting up for the longest legal battle in history. This makes sense as it is just their same old tried-and-tested strategy where they would just basically tie competition up in so much red tape that they went under from excessive legal bills. It seems Microsoft can't innovative in their business or legal strategy as well as their products.

    Microsoft can only win against Linux if they fight a war of attrition, because their argument has no real merit but MS do have almost limitless financial/legal resources so any sort of business entity that is in the Linux camp will really need to watch out.

    The good thing is that the very nature of Open Source is that millions of individuals contribute, meaning Microsoft has to sue the world (read: including their own customer base) to really win.
  • SMB, etc. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by micromuncher ( 171881 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:52AM (#18097372) Homepage

    If I remember correctly, its all about integration to reverse engineered protocols such as SMB and storage architecture such as NTFS. Microsoft holds a patent on these, and doesn't want anyone integrating without paying a ridiculous license fee. The argument is because of documentation around the protocols, that much of it wasn't reverse engineered but based on proprietary documentation. At the end of the day, these are valid patents.
  • by d3xt3r ( 527989 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:59AM (#18097476)
    Hey Steve,

    Windows is a closed source system. How exactly do you think your intellectual property got into Linux? The Linux kernel on the other hand is open source. If there's code in Windows that is also in the Linux kernel, it would only make sense that your developers put it there by copying it from Linux.

    You sir, are an ignorant jackass.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dcam ( 615646 )
      Hey d3xt3r,

      Patents are published and can therefore be read by linux developers.

      You sir, are ignorant.
  • Value? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:05PM (#18097558)
    From TFA: "We are higher priced, but we bring greater value," Ballmer added."

    From my windows server systeminfo:

    OS Name: Microsoft(R) Windows(R) Server 2003, Standard Edition
    OS Version: 5.2.3790 Service Pack 1 Build 3790
    System Up Time: 13 Days, 17 Hours, 46 Minutes, 39 Seconds

    Linux server 1:
    $ uptime
      16:23:45 up 162 days, 18:58, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.01

    Linux server 2:
    $ uptime
      16:23:21 up 162 days, 19:01, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

    The windows server is for active directory and acts as a file and printer server. The linux servers are web, database, mail, and file servers. The windows server cost over $3,000 for hardware and software. The more powerful and versatile linux servers were $400 specials. Tell me where the value is, Steve-o.

    Oh, and the reason the linux server uptime is 162 days is because something blew up at the local power substation and we had no power for a day.
  • Pretty ironic really (Score:4, Informative)

    by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:07PM (#18097600) Homepage
    Coming from the chairman of a company which is:

    1) being sued for including mp3 software without a full patent license
    2) being sued by AT&T by shipping development work overseas to avoid US patents
    3) got succesfully sued by Eolas for the browser plugins patent infringement
    4) is currently being sued by a company called Visto for mobile email and data patent infringements
    5) got successfully sued by Timeline for patent infringement in SQL Server
    6) is being sued by a company called VirnetX for patent infringement in VPN

    the list goes on...

  • Tux Says (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:37PM (#18098046) Homepage

    Bring it, Monkey Boy.

    It was a huge mistake trying to tarnish the open source community by financing the SCO fiasco. All that did is get them angry and organized. Now they know how to respond to vague IP threats. If there was anything remotely indecent about the code in Linux, it would have already turned up. Instead SCO provides a Linux code proof set, public record to back it up and a convenient online repository for all the case documentation.

    If this is Microsoft threatening Linux, then they're doing it will all the skill and clarity they demonstrated developing Zune.

    Maybe if you'd shut up and build an operating system worth a crap and stop treating your customers like criminals, Linux wouldn't be nearly so much competition. But that's too much like real work. Isn't that right, fat boy?

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:09PM (#18098566) Homepage

    Let;'s hear some patent numbers from Microsoft. Nobody will pay attention until Microsoft comes up with some specific claims. The SCO case has made that clear.

  • by giafly ( 926567 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:38PM (#18099026)
    The downside of Ballmer "crying wolf" like this is that it seriously pisses off developers.

    It forces designers like myself to avoid Microsoft technologies and extensions to standards because they attract less support, indeed outright hatred. Exactly the same thing happened when Sun brought out the lawyers, about eight years ago, and as a result killed client-side Java.
  • by RelliK ( 4466 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:42PM (#18099110)
    I am amazed this has not been done already. Some authority figure in the open source community (be it RMS, Linus, FSF, RedHat -- whatever) must stand up and say "what patents?". They must write an open letter to Ballmer asking him to disclose with specificity what patents he believes apply to Linux, what parts of Linux (file, version, lines of code) he believes infringe on said patents, etc. This is the only way to stop the FUD. If Microsoft replies, we can either remove the allegedly infringing code or debunk their claims. If Microsoft fails to reply, everyone will see that they are full of shit. Either way we come out ahead.

    It would be worthwhile to point out that the strategy of vague, unsubstantiated accusations has already failed for Microsoft's minion, SCO, when IBM asked them in legal filings the exact same question and it turned out that SCO was bluffing all along.

    You can post here on /. till you're blue in the face, but until there is an official response from an open source authority figure the FUD will not stop.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @02:50PM (#18099948)
    then what the hell did they pay Novel M$140 for?
  • Preparing for battle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jopet ( 538074 ) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:35AM (#18106918) Journal
    Patents have always been good ammunition when companies engage in a battle. The way to reach agreements is to trade patents and pay money until an equilibrium of power is reached or until one of the two is crushed.

    MS has identified Linux as a worthy opponent and is just engaging in its standard procedure. I really do not blame MS -- blame your idiotic patent laws that allow companies like MS (but also others, e.g. IBM) to patent every little trivial function in order to pile up ammunition. In a democracy, laws, and that includes patent laws, should be the result of what people want. Obviously the majority of people want a capitalism where big companies can crush small competitors by playing - among others - the pile of insane patents card.

    He who can afford the better lawyers and the bigger number of simultanously ongoing trials wins.
    People, you voted for the guys who made these laws.

You are in the hall of the mountain king.