Ballmer 0wnz us

This is just too much:

…because open-source Linux does not come from a company — Linux comes from the community — the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders

No Steve, the fact that you launch a patent for loads of trivial and pre-existing technologies (I mean come on, the smiley!) is a problem for your shareholders. The software patent system is flawed in so many ways, and it is all coming to a crunch as people realise how ridiculous it is to judge the “innovativeness” of a company based on a big purse and the ability for its many lawyers to extract IP from pre-existing and completely trivial software “inventions”. People are also hopefully starting to realise that software patents have too long a life in an industry when perhaps 5 years is the longest life you have to extract value from a new invention. As Bill Gates himself said in 1991 with a confused message of foreboding and obviously the position Microsoft chose to take since then:

If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today… The solution is patenting as much as we can. A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.

Anyway, what started this post was Ballmer had an interview recently where he implied the deal with Novell is all about Microsoft getting “appropriately compensated… for [their] intellectual property”.

…because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft

Just when you think they are starting to get a clue. It amazes me the hypocrisy of the statement when significant chunks of the Microsoft software and infrastructure use FOSS, but it makes me even more angry for Microsoft to use this Novell deal to try to bully people into only using a version of Linux they will get compensated for. Novell, for all the good intentions I’m sure you had in this, witness the beast you have created.

Amazingly, Novell’s Open Letter to the community about the deal makes pretty clear that:

Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property.

Then Microsoft responded again making clear they think Linux infringes on their IP, however:

Novell is absolutely right in stating that it did not admit or acknowledge any patent problems as part of entering into the patent collaboration agreement.

Ridiculous behaviour.

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10 Responses to Ballmer 0wnz us

  1. Excellent write up – Gates’s 1991 comments really summarise their position quite clearly.

  2. Linus says:

    commercial strategy and being more intelligent than your competitors is not a bad thing, it just depends on how dumb or willing to give up what they have that counts. Sometimes it is about shadow boxing, thinking you are getting more than you are, whilst losing more than you had. You cannot blame Ballmer for outwitting, outplaying and out surviving his competitiors, otherwise they wouldn’t be competitors they would be the vanquished

  3. Hi Pia, sorry I didn’t catch up with you at the SLUG dinner last night.

    In my latest posting on opensuse-project
    I ask Mark Shuttleworth what he thinks about what you have said.

  4. Genghis Cowen says:

    Hi Pia when you say significant chunks of code are FOSS, can you please be specific. I understand Windows 2003 server is 25 miliion lines of code, how many are part of the significant chunk you specified?
    As we all know generalities which whilst sound good have often little fact behind them, so here is your chance!

  5. greebo says:

    Hi Ghenghis,

    I didn’t say huge chunks of code, I said significant. Things like TCP and FTP. I linked to some of the examples I had to hand. That they use _any_ FOSS and still tell others they can’t use it is a hypocrisy. As mentioned in my post, this is just one of the issues I have, and I would _love_ to see what Microsoft IP Linux allegedly infringes on.

    Their answer would likely be (and is being infered to be) patents. The patents issue is a scary one that is hurting creativity and younger/smaller companies, and I for one am sick of large monopolies trying to use legalistic tools like patents as big weapons of mass distraction, distraction from newer and better ideas and technologies that in a level playing field would quickly rule the market. Software patents are often enough both too long and too trivial to be anything but interference to what should be a fast paced and innovative industry. And the fact that large companies base their measurement of “innovation” on the number of patents they have show that there is very little care about quality or an open market where anyone can excel.

  6. Genghis Cowen says:

    1000 lines of code of 25 million is not significant it is miniscule.

    It is a well known fact that the original TCP/IP stack came from the BSD platform, though not the open free one you assume but the paid for protected version circa 1993.

    SAMBA is a classic, it infringes all over the place

  7. greebo says:


    I am in the habit of allowing all comments through to my blog, trolls and otherwise :) It is good to see you missed my point completely as it shows you are more interested in trolling than an actual dialogue.

    I find it amusing you are attacking SAMBA in this way, as one of the worlds best projects for providing systems interoperability. I’m sure it infringes Microsoft patents, as does a smiley (see original post), and I believe this isn’t a problem for or with SAMBA but rather with the patents granted being so trivial or/and already having prior art. My point about patents has evidently gone completely over your head so I suggest you do some research before posting again on this.

  8. Genghis Cowen says:

    Interesting, actually not a troll to get the response I expect which is I am right you are wrong because I say so….

    So when you discuss IP and patents do you mean all patents ever issued for everything trivial or valuable or otherwise. I am interested in this as being inventive could provide income to the inventor whether directly or as sold to somebody else. I assume you do not rent or buy DVD’s as they include a royalty to the owner of the issued IP, do you buy or read books, listen to music or pirate it. Whilst these are more mainstream and obvious “protected” sources of information they do fall into protected and owned by the author or publisher etc. I absolutely agree some stuff in IT is absurd, but then again this is not limited to only IT.

    I would be happy to release all authors, bands and IT companies from the need to generate royalties and just live off the vapur of having created something for the good of the world, but that just isn’t realistic

  9. greebo says:


    I have not said people should not be rewarded for actually being innovative. I had explicitly spoken about trivial patents (for example patenting a smiley) and patents that quite clearly have prior art (for example a “for technology used for internet-based education support systems and methods” – see my earlier Blackboard blog post). The very poor quality of patents being let through is hurting the industry more than helping it, and the companies with the deep pockets and time to issue such destructive patents are indeed being rewarded, but usually through share prices boosting due to being seen as “innovative”, as the patents themselves are often too ridiculous to enforce. We are judging “innovation” based on numbers not quality, doesn’t that seem somewhat silly to you?

    Keep in mind most IT companies make a great living on custom development, services, support, integration, subscriptions and other revenue streams. Patents is only really a realm for the very large companies, and where a smaller company takes the time and effort to get one, their one “good” patent could be bought out by a bigger company with thousands of trivial patents that could be used to threaten the smaller company. This is happening today to small companies and small development projects. Check out “The Tragedy of rproxy” to see what I mean. The actual “inventors” as you would well know are never rewarded directly :)

    I don’t think it is ridiculous to call for some patent reform where it applies to IT as the system is simply not working. It doesn’t reward actual innovation, but rather rewards a shotgun approach to IP where only large players with deep pockets can play. And they play by holding a large sack of uncertainty over competitors rather than competing on their actual value proposition. There is a lot of real innovation happening in the world of Open Source, where people are often enough just solving their problems. Perhaps we should reassess what drives people and understand that patents may not be the best tool for driving innovation in IT. A patent for an invention which takes a lot of money and time to take to market kind of makes sense, but most IT is comparatively very quick and cheap to take to market, and an invention loses value very quickly as the industry moves so fast. If patents aren’t what is driving real innovation, then the original point of them is lost and thus we need to re-evaluate.

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