Steve Ballmer has attacked Linux vendors for failing to adequately indemnify customers against potential intellectual property legal actions.
In a well-publicized letter to customers, partners and just about anyone on the company’s e-mail list, Ballmer singled out IP as a potentially risky area for Linux users. The letter also attempted to talk-up the Windows security record and total cost of ownership (TCO).
No vendor today stands behind Linux will full IP indemnification, Ballmer said. Infact it’s rare for open source software to provide customers with any indemnification at all.
Ballmer’s message comes after Open Source Risk Management (OSRM) earlier this year claimed to have identified a number of causes for potential IP action in the Linux kernel. An OSRM audit earlier this year found 287 potential patents, of which 27 are owned by Microsoft.
OSRM early next year plans to launch an independent indemnification service for Linux customers. Ahead of that, and in contradiction to Ballmer’s comments, vendors have been slowly lining up to indemnify Linux and other users of open source software.
During the last year Hewlett Packard Co said it would indemnify customers running Red Hat of SuSE on unmodified systems running from HP desktops and servers. HP’s action was intended to shield customers from prosecution by SCO Group.
Novell Inc offered protection to customers on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8.0 in January, having closed its $210 million acquisition of SuSE Linux AG.
Open source application server vendor JBoss Inc also announced plans in November 2003 to indemnify customers against legal claims it project infringes on patents or copyrights.
In his letter yesterday, Ballmer continued that in 2003 Microsoft altered its volume licensing contracts to provide uncapped protection for legal costs associated with a patent, copyright, trademark of trade secret claim against Microsoft products.