Hilf: What we heard back after the Novell deal was "Give us more transparency. You say that there is IP involved, give us an understanding of what that is." So the attempt was that if we give a number and category of where these things fall, maybe that will help people get an idea of the scope. We are very much calling out to commercial companies to license this stuff and resolve these issues. This isn't like a trivial invention. There are a couple hundred significant patents here.
IDGNS: Linux supporters have countered that Windows could be using technology that’s in Linux. Given your knowledge of Linux and Windows, what do you think of that assertion?
Hilf: People generalize so much. If you write a patent, it has to be very specific -- you can't have a generalized patent. No one patented the automobile. The idea that maybe IBM invented the operating system thus Microsoft is late in the game is sort of silly. The operating system is a huge category, it's like "automotive" in many ways. The challenge in all of this is …everyone wants to be a patent attorney or a judge and make the decision if that's a real invention or not. At the end of the day, the person who decides if it’s an invention of one company or another is a judge.
I personally believe that there's a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in software patent reform. However, the current rules still apply. It's still the way we do business today and how all other businesses work. So we still have to find ways to work in the current system even though we do want it to be improved in the future.
IDGNS: Microsoft has made a lot of effort to extend an olive branch to the open-source community through programs such as Codeplex , an open-source project sharing portal. But the community is pretty upset by the Fortune story. Is that going to hurt future cooperation?
Hilf: There are three things that we are doing: We're competing with Linux and Unix servers with Windows servers, we're going to find ways to interoperate between Linux and Windows because lots of our customers run both and we want to grow the open-source ecosystem as it relates to Microsoft software. There's no other strategy. There's no other hidden agenda. I'm trying to be as clear as I can to people that this isn't a threat. We're not going out and attacking people. We're trying to solve an IP issue.