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Still Competitive And Fierce, Ballmer Blasts Off

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says he's more pumped and confident than ever. Though he has upped his company's dividend, don't think for a moment that he's gone warm and fuzzy. He's as competitive and as fierce as ever. And he's thinking a lot about the midmarket. In an interview with VARBusiness' T.C. Doyle, Ballmer reveals why he leaves nothing to chance.

VB: I'm starting to hear talk from SCO and others trumpeting the wonders of intellectual property. Do you think more companies will do the same now that more open-source projects are starting to encroach on their proprietary businesses?

Ballmer: Yes. [Duh.] Now, any company that has to feed mouths for a living is going to make sure, in our business, that they innovate and get full value of that innovation. It doesn't matter who you're talking about, that'll be the case. So the notion that others will talk about their innovation, its value, protecting it, etc."no, it doesn't surprise me.

VB: So, you know where I'm going with the next one: You see Sun, Computer Associates, putting stuff into the open-source realm. Obviously, there's Novell and all these others with their hybrid strategies"some open source, some blending intellectual property. What do you make of all this?

Ballmer: Companies that do that are basically commercial-software companies. We've been publishing Driver Source for years. You could argue there are parallels, but the truth of the matter is when people say, "Look at some of my source code, but I really don't want you to use this"I want you to use the other thing, because the other thing is where I have my protected intellectual property and where I make money," it is like a seeding strategy. It's not a real business strategy. Sun is who they are: They are not a company that succeeds by zero-priced published software of theirs going to market. They are trying to sell you their unique value-add. IBM is the funny one, because they're really on the same strategy, too, but they have embraced Linux hook, line and sinker so they can sell you very expensive middleware that sits on top of it. That's where they are coming from. [But] Linux plus WebSphere is a lot more expensive than Windows. So they are not selling inexpensive solutions, but they are doing it without their mainline products.

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