Ballmer: Linux users are patent-crooks

The other shoe has dropped on a weird little deal between Microsoft and Novell over SUSE Linux last week. Microsoft gave Novell $440 million for SUSE support, and then Novell gave back $40 million to license Microsoft's bogus patent claims against Linux.

Now Microsoft's Chief Rageaholic Steve Ballmer has explained the deal: Novell's $40 million "payment" is an admission of guilt. Every Linux user who doesn't use SUSE (the only "licensed" Linux) is a patent infringer. All Linuxes except the ones that Microsoft blesses are illegal.

A key element of the agreement now appears to be Novell's US$40 million payment to Microsoft in exchange for the latter company's pledge not to sue SUSE Linux users over possible patent violations. Also protected are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers who create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers who are paid to create code that goes into the distribution...

At the time, Microsoft officials, including Ballmer, were mum on whether the Linux kernel, which is governed by the General Public License and takes contributions from programmers all around the world, violated Microsoft's patents.

Ballmer was more open Thursday.

"Novell pays us some money for the right to tell customers that anybody who uses SUSE Linux is appropriately covered," Ballmer said. This "is important to us, because [otherwise] we believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability."

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(Thanks, Carsten!)