Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said the software giant
is open minded to the possibility of making its application
software available on Linux, provided intellectual property issues
can be resolved.
Speaking at Gartner's autumn Symposium/ITxpo, Ballmer said
Microsoft is interested in putting .Net, its strategy for
redesigning its application software as services delivered over the
internet, on operating system platforms other than Windows. He
singled out Palm and Linux as being of particular interest.
However, he said the intellectual property environment of Linux
is "messy" and the environment "confused", meaning that there are
"hurdles to putting Microsoft software on Linux". His statement is
an indication that Microsoft is keen to make money from the open
source movement, if only it can work out a way to do so.
Turning to the antitrust case against Microsoft, Ballmer said
people should not assume that the software giant will be split into
separate applications and operating system companies.
Ballmer claimed Microsoft has devoted little energy to working
through how a possible breakup might be implemented, because the
final outcome of the case, about which he expresses continued
optimism, is yet to be determined.
"If you don't accept our confidence as gospel, remember there
will be some things that change during the appellant process," said
Ballmer, who added that the case has not adversely affected morale
Ballmer was closely questioned by Gartner vice-president Tom
Austin concerning the rising percentage of the cost of a PC
represented by software costs, which stands out as the cost of disk
and memory continue to decrease.
Austin said that over the past five years users have spent 300
per cent more on Microsoft software, and by 2005 this can be
expected to be 500 per cent more. Ballmer said this reflects the
fact that people are buying more Microsoft software to perform more
tasks, rather than being anything to do with the software giant's
On the future, Ballmer predicted that Oracle, Sun Microsystems,
AOL and the "Linux phenomenon" will be Microsoft's strongest
competitors. IBM will be a competitor but will also co-operate more
with Microsoft in a number of areas, such as in the development of
Soap (Simple Object Access Protocol).
Ballmer dismissed Sun chief executive Scott McNealy's claims
that the computer software industry will fade away as "absurd".
Software is central to solving and - Ballmer joked - creating
problems, and is even more important as companies embrace
McNealy's keynote speech yesterday - which amounted to an
obituary for the software industry - was "patently crazy", said
Ballmer. Statements such as those by McNealy, "are one of the
reasons people steer clear of Sun", he added.
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