In an email message directed to the company's enterprise customers, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer yesterday declared that Windows is more reliable, more secure, and less expensive than Linux. But these are common Microsoft talking points. Perhaps most important, he noted for the first time in such a message that Windows offers better indemnification, or insurance, against intellectual property lawsuits. Ballmer's highlighting of indemnification at this time is no coincidence--it's an increasingly hot topic among the risk-averse corporate crowd.

"Today, when a volume-licensing customer licenses a Microsoft product, we provide uncapped protection for legal costs associated with a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret claim alleging infringement by a Microsoft product," he said. "We do this because ... we understand that being on the wrong end of a software patent lawsuit could cost a customer millions of dollars and massively disrupt their business. No vendor today stands behind Linux with full IP indemnification. In fact, it is rare for open-source software \[OSS\] to provide customers with any indemnification at all."

Although the likelihood of a company being sued for using Linux technologies is small, it has already happened. Earlier this year, SCO Group, which claims ownership of software code used in various Linux distributions, began suing companies such as AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler for using Linux. SCO is also involved in high-profile intellectual property lawsuits with IBM and Novell, both of which are major Linux backers. To date, IBM and HP have promised to indemnify customers against Linux-based intellectual property lawsuits.

Although indemnification is a hot topic right now, Ballmer also touched on numerous other Linux-related concerns in his message. For more details, you can read the entire Ballmer message on the Microsoft Web site.