Steve Ballmer apparently likes open source. Well, so long as it drives Windows revenue. And doesn't replace any. Ever. In fact, as he said at an event in Microsoft last week in London that he hopes to see all open-source innovation going to Windows, rather than Linux (more below).
His Q&A session is fascinating (you can watch it here), if for no other reason than to watch him slap around a strawman open-source competitor. I hardly recognized the open-source strawman he constructed, but he delighted in swatting its anti-commercial tendencies. I guess he has neglected to consider Red Hat, MySQL, SugarCRM, etc. etc. etc.
Among many others, Ballmer stated one absolutely dubious thing: "Our battle is not business model to business model, but rather product to product." If this were true (and if he actually believed it, which he doesn't), Microsoft could embrace open source. But since open source its very foundation, Microsoft has to fight it (which is one reason he couldn't avoid his patent canard.
In fact, in this Q&A, he all-but-declared something that I've been saying for many moons: Microsoft wants to tax open-source innovation. He said, with respect to Red Hat:
"People that use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us."
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!!! Ballmer believes Linux violates Microsoft's patents (as he says earlier in his comments), and wants people to pay up. This despite his desire to see all open source innovation (yes, he said "all") happen on Windows rather than Linux.
"I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows."
I bet. In fact, as one blogger summarized:
Ballmer revealed that Microsoft has done a lot of work to attract open source innovation on Windows, deterring it from the Linux platform. The illustrative example Ballmer used was related to the efforts poured involving a tighter integration of PHP with Windows. In essence, Microsoft would benefit from open source components focused on it rather than on Linux.
This is competition by fair means. It would be nice if Microsoft restricted itself to such means. Alas! It hasn't. And won't.
More coverage from the event here (including Ballmer's critique of Google reading its customers' emails, among other things).