Feeds

Ballmer: “Linux is a cancer”

Contaminates all other software with Hippie GPL rubbish

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Microsoft CEO and incontinent over-stater of facts Steve Ballmer said that "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches," during a commercial spot masquerading as a media interview with the Chicago Sun-Times Friday.

Ballmer was trying to articulate his concern, whether real or imagined, that limited recourse to the GNU GPL requires that all software be made open source.

"The way the license is written, if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source," Ballmer explained to an excessively credulous, un-named Sun-Times reporter who, predictably, neglected to question this bold assertion.

Perhaps Ballmer was thinking of this: "If identifiable sections of [a companion] work are not derived from the [open-source] Program, and can be reasonably considered independent and separate works in themselves, then this License, and its terms, do not apply to those sections when you distribute them as separate works. But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it."

The passage is hopelessly ill written. What on earth, we must wonder, can the authors mean by a companion work which can be 'reasonably considered' to be separate? Do they mean it should have been developed independently? Do they mean it should function independently? Do they mean both?

What if a secondary work were developed separately, and function separately, but remain inextricably integrated with the first, the way Internet Explorer is with Windows? Is that 'reasonably considered' to be a separate work?

What's 'reasonable' here, anyway? And 'considered' by whom? The average adult? The average programmer? It's vague, all right; we'll give old Steve that much.

But one thing we can depend on is that it definitely doesn't mean what Ballmer slickly tries to imply: that once you issue anything under the GPL, every other piece of software you have for sale is suddenly affected by it.

And yet this is the shaky basis on which Ballmer dismisses open source as anathema to all commercial software companies. It can't be used at all, he reasons, because even a tiny germ of it, like a metastasizing cancer, contaminates the entire body. Thus Microsoft 'has a problem' with government funding of open-source.

"Government funding should be for work that is available to everybody," he says patriotically. But "open source is not available to commercial companies," and should therefore be regarded as a violation of the public trust.

Ballmer touches on a few other items, including Microsoft's new product activation and licensing schemes, which, it is hoped, will pave the way for a thriving software rental business and its subsequent endless revenue stream.

"Our goal is to try to educate people on what it means to protect intellectual property and pay for it properly" (read 'eternally'), Ballmer says.

If by 'educate' he means punish with higher costs those who fail to appreciate the wisdom of volume software leases, and inconvenience Win-XP users who like to re-format on a regular basis with a limit of two clean installs, then perhaps he might have chosen different wording.

'Train' or 'housebreak' strike us as somewhat more in tune with the subtext. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft
Doesn't much like Apple or Google, either
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Sin COS to tan Windows? Chinese operating system to debut in autumn – report
Development alliance working on desktop, mobe software
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?