Ballmer, Bemused

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Interviews

Fans of the popular Linux software program have long fretted that software giant Microsoft will attack Linux by claiming the free program violates Microsoft's patents.

So far nothing has happened. But in an interview with Forbes.com, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer wouldn't rule out such a showdown. Ballmer also explains why Microsoft, which on Thursday announced a sweeping reorganization of its Windows division, is less freaked out by free programs than it was a few years ago.

Forbes.com: Right now, I can go out and get a free alternative to just about every product Microsoft sells. Why do people keep paying you for something they could get free?

Ballmer: One, people value their time. Our stuff does more, and they like that. Two, people value their time, and those [free] things tend to be clunky. Let's say you think you can save $50. And then you go and waste three hours. You tell me how quick that payback is. You can sketch that out at the enterprise level as much as you can at the individual end-user level. So people value their time, and people value their capability. Frankly, people value not only the compatibility our stuff has with itself, but they value the add-ons and the third-party customization that people have done. As long as we keep pushing the pace of innovation and delivering that value, I think we have a great opportunity.

You've seen it in the marketplace. Some people, especially business customers, want some kind of corporate entity standing behind these things.

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