The day the Microsoft/Novell partnership was launched, I fielded an abnormally high proportion of inbound IMs regarding the deal, and of those a substantial portion were interpreting the deal as a tacit admission on Novell’s part of IP taint within the Linux kernel. I more or less summarily rejected those claims first because I believed that Novell shipped plenty of other technologies that needed shielding – or at least the appearance of shielding – such as Mono. My other line of reasoning was even more basic: it’s no secret that Microsoft has not been thrilled with the rise of Linux, and it seemed illogical to conclude that if Microsoft did in fact have IP that read on the Linux kernel that they would have asserted said rights long ago rather than waiting for the operating system project to grow into a legitimate threat.
Turns out I was wrong, if Ballmer’s latest comments are to be believed. Lots of folks have pointed me over to his comments as related by Computer Business Review Online’s Matthew Aslett:
We’ve had an issue, a problem that we’ve had to confront, which is because of the way the GPL works, and 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.
My reaction? I’m with Matt on this one: if you’ve got rights to assert here, then assert them. This passive/aggressive behavior is not terribly becoming.