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Microsoft's confusion over how much to hate open source

Microsoft just can't make an ugly baby pretty.

I mentioned that I feel bad for Bill Hilf, Microsoft's open-source point man. I actually feel really bad for him. He has to clean up after Steve Ballmer, the proverbial bull in a china shop. Ballmer likely has many redeeming qualities. Accuracy and discretion are not among them, as he showed last week in his comments about Red Hat.

Now, Microsoft is scrambling to come up with a viable explanation for his boneheaded comments. They're failing:

A team of Microsoft spokespeople have been working throughout the day to devise a plausible explanation for a comment made by CEO Steve Ballmer during a company gathering in the UK, which on its face appears to say it is considering litigation against users of Red Hat Linux for patent infringement.

But one spokesperson acknowledged late this afternoon that multiple sources have yet to come to an agreement over what the company should say.

How do you say "I hate open source and want to kill it" while still appealing to your customers who love it? It's a lose-lose proposition and, hence, it's no surprise that Microsoft is losing with it. It's patent noise is hurting no one except, perhaps, its own credibility.

It's hard to spin your true feelings, Microsoft. Just come clean. We won't love you for it. But we may actually respect you for being forthright.