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Microsoft considers apps for Linux

Oct 18, 2000, 21:38 (42 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Leyden)

By John Leyden, VNU Net

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 in Redmond.

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 licensing policies.

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 ecommerce.

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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