Ballmer castigated by HP for "Linux is a cancer" jibe

Hewlett-Packard's Linux adviser has lambasted Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer who earlier this week described Linux as "a cancer."

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By  Robin Duff Published  June 6, 2001

A recent interview that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave in the American media has embroiled the software giant in a war of words with one of Hewlett-Packard’s Linux experts. In the interview, Ballmer was quoted as saying that companies that used open source code to build applications would have to make whole programs open source.

“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself, in an intellectual property sense, to everything that it touches,” said Ballmer. He also added that, after being asked if he viewed the open source movement as a threat to Microsoft, the only problem his company faced was the US government’s funding of open source work.

“Open source is not available to commercial companies. The way the licence is written, if you use any open source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source. If the government wants to put something in the public domain, it should. Linux is not in the public domain,” he explained.

Bruce Perens, HP's strategic Linux adviser, responded by saying:
“Doesn't Microsoft realise that we have lawyers working at HP and other companies that deal with Linux? Our lawyers certainly aren't telling us that 'Linux is a cancer'.”

Only one open source licence out of the 20 that were available came close to what Ballmer described, said Perens. General public licences (GPLs) allow developers to change code or use it as building blocks for new programs, provided the new code was also freely available.

“When you take pieces of Linux and put them in your own programs you may have some licence obligations, but they are not ones as bad as you'd get with a Microsoft product,” he explained.

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