Microsoft Corp. Chief Operating Officer Steve Ballmer on Thursday warned Asian governments that they could face intellectual rights-infringement lawsuits for using rival open-source operating platforms such as Linux. Ballmer, speaking in Singapore at Microsoft's Asian Government Leaders Forum, said that Linux violated more than 228 patents. He did not provide any detail on the alleged violations, which the Linux community disputes.
"Someday, for all countries that are entering the WTO (World Trade Organization), somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property," he added.
Linux users got a scare earlier this year when software developer SCO Group Inc. sued a company for using Linux, which SCO claimed contains software code that it owns.
SCO is also embroiled in a lawsuit against IBM, claiming that the computer giant illegally built SCO's software code into Linux.
Singapore's Ministry of Defense last month switched 20,000 personal computers to run on open-source software instead of the Microsoft operating platform.
Other governments in the region are also looking to develop open-source software. China, Japan and South Korea this year agreed to jointly develop open-source software running on Microsoft's rival Linux operating platform.
The Chinese government, in particular, sees its reliance on Microsoft as a potential threat. Conspiracy buffs believe certain patches in the Windows code might give U.S. authorities the power to access Chinese networks and disable them, possibly during a war over Taiwan.
Ballmer said the security fears some governments had about using Microsoft software were overblown.
"We think our software is far more secure than open-source software. It is more secure because we stand behind it, we fixed it, because we built it. Nobody ever knows who built open-source software," he added. ($1=1.646 Singapore Dollar)