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Open Source Stress
Late last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Wall Street analysts that the commercial software industry faces a risk: Open-source software could threaten the sector's profits in the next decade. At the same daylong meeting, chairman Bill Gates asserted the need for "increased, intense focus" on protecting intellectual property in the software business and predicted a dramatic rise in the number of patents that Microsoft files. A week later in San Francisco, a different sentiment was in evidence at the LinuxWorld trade show. IBM, perhaps the most influential patent holder in the tech industry, said it wouldn't use its hefty patent portfolio against Linux, as it released into the public domain the software code for its Java-based Cloudscape database. "No single vendor, no matter how large, can claim a monopoly on innovation," said senior VP Nick Donofrio. And Matthew Szulik, CEO of Linux distributor Red Hat Inc., denounced patent holders' "veiled threat of legal intimidation" against users of open-source software during his speech.