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Microsoft's Ballmer 'debunks' Linux cost saving

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer has laid out what he categorised as "facts", intended to cast doubt on the notion that the open-source operating system is cheaper, more secure and can be patched faster than Windows.

"I'm not happy that we grew share and Linux grew their share a little bit more at the server level last year," Ballmer told financial analysts last week. He countered that Microsoft has logged important wins involving customers migrating from Unix and Linux, including Safeway and Hard Rock Cafe International.

Ballmer also pointed to a report from Gartner which, he claimed, showed Windows XP has a lower total cost of ownership than Linux and one by IDC citing Windows' cost advantage over a five-year period.

"They help debunk this concept that says because something's free to acquire, it's actually low cost," he said.

Microsoft chief financial officer John Connors disclosed internal estimates showing that Linux server shipments had grown 23% during the financial year ending 30 June, while Microsoft's Windows servers experienced growth of 7.7%.

Windows still held 53.1% market share, compared with 16.7% for Linux, according to Microsoft figures.

Ballmer also described as "hogwash" the theory that the world is moving to services and that commercial software will disappear.

"Will the software business be bigger five years from now than it is today? Or will the work of people for free be as good as the innovation and value that the commercial companies create?" Ballmer asked.

He responded by saying that he was "enthusiastic" about innovation, particularly in regard to Microsoft's integrated product set and "next-generation" collaboration system, and about Microsoft's ability "to charge positive prices for software five years from now".

Ballmer also questioned IBM's strategy of offering its WebSphere application server on Linux. "Will IBM tell you the roadmap for Linux? Can they respond to your request for a new feature? No, they can't do that. They don't control Linux.

"Does IBM fix Linux problems the way IBM stands behind and fixes the MVS operating system? Of course not," he continued. "Does IBM indemnify the intellectual property in Linux the way it indemnifies the intellectual property in every IBM software product? ... The answer is certainly no."

Ballmer referred to Microsoft's next release of Windows, codenamed Longhorn as "the next generation of a whole series of products".

Carol Sliwa writes for Computerworld


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