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Microsoft CEO leaves Linux out of industry kudos

Speaking to an audience in open-standards territory, Steve Ballmer challenged Linux on Web services, copyright indemnification, cost and developer unity.

BOSTON -- Microsoft's outspoken chief executive strode into open-standards friendly Massachusetts on Wednesday...

to plug the software industry, but he also made sure to deliver his stock pitch on the virtues of Windows over Linux.

At the Massachusetts Software Council's fall membership meeting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told software manufacturers, educators and local business leaders that Windows leads Linux in terms of its interoperability, a results of all the work Microsoft has

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer
done with XML-based Web services technology. He also said that Linux, in the long run, can cost more than Windows, and that Windows developers are more cohesive than the open-source development community.

Ballmer also reminded the audience that users of Microsoft's software are indemnified against all copyright liability, unlike competitors that offer Linux embedded in their products. He said such vendors either offer some protection, none at all or have nothing to say publicly on the issue, which could put some enterprises at considerable financial risk.

"Why highlight this for you?" Ballmer said. "You have to decide what intellectual property risk you will bear."

Massachusetts' open approach

Earlier this year, Massachusetts became one of the first states to adopt a policy that all IT

In our business, it's easy to get imbued with passion, but then you have to turn it into something that customers want.

Microsoft CEO

Steve Ballmer

investments must adhere to open standards. While not necessarily saying that the purchases have to use open-source code, it does require that all agencies must consider all possible alternatives to determine the best value.

Last September, Eric Kriss, Massachusetts' secretary for administration and finance, said the state would commit to reviewing all future IT projects and consider using open-source software and open standards where it makes sense. In January, the state toned down the language in its policy to emphasize open standards versus open source.

At the software council's meeting Wednesday, Ballmer also addressed a question about Microsoft's interest in developing its own search technology. He told attendees that, until recently, Microsoft had underinvested in search, and that the company is now "hell bent and determined, full bore, with heads down working on that."

He said he sees the evolution of search technology in three phases: the AltaVista phase, the Yahoo phase and now the Google phase. "Are we at the end of the line, or will there be a phase four?" he asked. "People still have a hard time finding what they want to find on the Internet."

Innovation needs a market

Ballmer said the key to success in the software industry is through integration and customer responsiveness, and that

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customers love innovation that is built on something they already understand.

"In our business, it's easy to get imbued with passion, but then you have to turn it into something that customers want," he said. "You have to listen to customer feedback.

Ballmer also briefly commented on Longhorn, the code name for the next version of Windows. He jokingly called Microsoft's recent announcement on its projected 2006 release for the operating system "a breakthrough for us." (Microsoft has gained something of a reputation for being vague about its release dates.) And Ballmer also acknowledged changes to Longhorn's planned features, including a delay for the Windows File System.

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