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Why Microsoft Can't Afford To Let Novell Die 215

Posted by kdawson
from the dark-knight dept.
geek4 sends in an analysis indicating that Microsoft may have the most to lose if hedge-fund operator Elliot buys Novell. (The eWeekEurope piece is based on a longer and geekier writeup by Andy Updegrove on how the mechanics of unsolicited tender offers can play out in the tech world.) To avoid meltdown or asset-stripping, Novell can try and find a preferred bidder — a company with some interest in running Novell as a business, and preferrably a tech company. Or another company may make a move independently. But who might that be? A couple of analysts have suggested IBM, Oracle, or SAP. These all have problems... Microsoft is in a similar category, with one added problem. ... Microsoft has staked any open source credibility that it has on Novell's SUSE distribution. If Novell falls to bits, then Microsoft's efforts to gain open source cred pretty much disappear with it. It's something that would have been impossible to imagine a few years back, but if we're looking for someone to prop Novell up, Microsoft would now be a prime candidate."
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Why Microsoft Can't Afford To Let Novell Die

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  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday March 08, 2010 @10:38PM (#31409202) Homepage Journal
    Once you start with MS your paths close up until the only remaining one is: they own you. Maybe if Novell had stayed away from Microsoft they'd be doing better now. Red Hat is doing really very well.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 08, 2010 @10:48PM (#31409280) Journal
      Do you think that they did badly because they touched Microsoft, or that they touched Microsoft because, for some other set of reasons, they weren't doing well enough against Red Hat and thought that it would provide them with competitive distinction?
      • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:04PM (#31409370) Homepage Journal

        I think SuSE understood what they had to do to make a business out of a Linux distribution. And Ubuntu/Canonical has, and they started later. I don't believe that Novell ever has. Like Caldera before them, they ended up alienating the very communities that would have pushed their own product in the enterprise, because they didn't understand that those communities were grass-roots engineering staff within their corporations - and were already connected to Open Source developers if they weren't themselves the developers - rather than the IT management that Novell focused upon.

        So, Novell was doing poorly, and saw MS as a fast and easy source of some third of a Billion dollars if they'd just do what Microsoft wanted, which would also endear themselves to those same IT managers that Novell was after, while further alienating the engineers.

        It was a short-term strategy.

        Want to bet that Novell becomes a litigation factory eventually? We're starting to see the symptoms.

        Bruce

        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:23PM (#31409514)

          Instead of buying a distribution, how about hiring some of the coders and providing them with specs to get your money-making products ported to ALL Linux distributions?

          Then pay bounties for improvements you need/want in other areas of Linux.

          Your company and products end up distribution-agnostic and you have lots of good will from paying the coders who are furthering Linux. And you can do it for a LOT less than the price of buying a whole distribution.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Bruce Perens (3872) *

            Instead of buying a distribution, how about hiring some of the coders and providing them with specs to get your money-making products ported to ALL Linux distributions?

            Because we don't really need those money-making products. We've got our own products that are already across distributions.

          • by toastar (573882)

            Instead of buying a distribution, how about hiring some of the coders and providing them with specs to get your money-making products ported to ALL Linux distributions?

            Then pay bounties for improvements you need/want in other areas of Linux.

            Your company and products end up distribution-agnostic and you have lots of good will from paying the coders who are furthering Linux. And you can do it for a LOT less than the price of buying a whole distribution.

            I'm all for that, As long as it reduces costs.

            which costs more redhat support or microsoft licenses?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          I think SuSE understood what they had to do to make a business out of a Linux distribution. And Ubuntu/Canonical has, and they started later.

          Indeed, Canonical has made a business. Just not one that turns a profit.

        • ...I predicted just days after Novell signed their patent deal with MS that Novell would eventually follow a similar path as Caldera/SCO.

          But I don't want to be proven right.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hklingon (109185)

          I once emailed RHovespain @ Novell because I saw a tremendous opportunity for Novell -- to be the SUSE/Ubuntu of the small business world. I was very excited about SLES / SLED and the possibilities for our small business customers (who typically use SBS2003 and now SBS2008). To have something like eBox/samba/ldap in one box with a well-maintained package repository.. seamless virtualization for legacy apps.. Their press releases were making me really excited with the possibilities. All the pieces exist inde

          • by hairyfeet (841228)
            Question: Have you tried Xandros [xandros.com]? I really think it would be more likely to give you want you want a lot easier than SUSE. It plays nice with AD, has Scalix built in to give you your Exchange like email and group calendaring, and the XMC makes it easy to switch over Windows admins. If you want tight intgration in a mixed environment it would probably be your best bet, and they have a free trial if you want to fire up a VM and give it a spin.
        • Every time I've disagreed with you, I've been proven wrong. You've shaken my confidence in pursuing a future career in industry analysis. So, I think I've learned my lesson. I'll just parrot what you say with a few weasel words against and a few bolder predictions along your main line of thought, to protect me either way.

          Its now clear that Microsoft, the true architect of the SCO IBM lawsuit may successfully removed the wrench that was thrown into its machiavellian machinations by subverting Novell into a l

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @03:04AM (#31410730)

          You have bad memory.

          I think SuSE understood what they had to do to make a business out of a Linux distribution.
          Back in the days, SuSE was in the red for $50 000 000 and survived because IBM injected them cash. They already were not very much in control any more. Later, IBM gave another $50M to Novell wich then bought SuSE. Is that the way to make a business out of a Linux distribution? To get in the red to get bought?
          http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:jaPNE148pE0J:techupdate.zdnet.com/techupdate/stories/main/novell_suse.html+ibm+novell+deal+suse&cd=3&hl=fr&ct=clnk
          I don't believe that Novell ever has. ... they ended up alienating the very communities that would have pushed their own product in the enterprise, because they didn't understand that those communities were grass-roots engineering staff within their corporations - and were already connected to Open Source developers if they weren't themselves the developers - rather than the IT management that Novell focused upon.
          Basically, SuSE was doing business around IBM big iron, they had (and have) a good relationship with IBM (frankfurt iirc) and work well.
          Apart from that, they alienated every (popular) community gathering around them long before the novell buy out by not freeing YaST, their management tool. The thing is, they tried to get some money from the people using their distro before you could download it. Which didnt work either, which leds to the $50M loss. (Others tried to not get money from their users, and it did work).
          Apart from that, as for the grass-roots engineering target, it is an entranched place where you find people either deeply tied to debian or to red hat. They don't give a damn about anything else, even if it's a nice piece of engineering as SuSE has always been. So is it really unwise to have aimed at another target? Maybe an already untouched area, like compagnies already doing microsoft that want to go linux too? I don't think so.

          those same IT managers that Novell was after
          AS FOR NOVELL, once it bought SuSE, they freed everything that wasnt already free in SuSE and then they freed some NOVELL software too. They hired people, they had for example 3 engineers on the ATI drivers, they have developed new distribution tools like the build system and the SuSE studio which are excellent and innovative.
          So would they have done this if they werent really trying to do a very good distro (and it is) and build a business AND a community around it?
          Also there is a text online from one of SuSE founder that says that after the buyout, the 5000 NOVELL people listened to the 500 SuSE people and got along with the program.

          The only meat in what you say is of course the MS deal which infuriated many persons (and me too). But this problem arise from the existence of patents and of a broken patent system. That is the real problem that needs to be fixed. You need a new Jefferson.

          • by segedunum (883035) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @08:48AM (#31412180)

            Back in the days, SuSE was in the red for $50 000 000 and survived because IBM injected them cash.

            Not particularly accurate. It's not unusual for such companies to take some time to break even, and the same was true of Red Hat. The $50 million injection was purely as part of the Novell deal and no they weren't in the red to that figure. There wasn't a second payment that I'm aware of. Novell have also only just about, with some creative accounting, managed to make their Suse Linux business break-even. Would Suse have done better by themselves? It's a matter of some debate.

            Apart from that, they alienated every (popular) community gathering around them long before the novell buy out by not freeing YaST, their management tool. The thing is, they tried to get some money from the people using their distro before you could download it. Which didnt work either, which leds to the $50M loss. (Others tried to not get money from their users, and it did work).

            You're going to have to qualify that statement and set of assumptions with some facts I'm afraid. Trying not to make money from something to get money is a contradiction in itself. Many open source companies around Linux have tried it and they've burned their VC money and went to the wall. It's a stretch to assume that because Suse didn't open YaST it was in trouble, but it would have probably had to have happened eventually. They didn't open it purely because they had some competitive advantage at the time. It was hardly a reason for people not giving Suse money for the distro, which is ultimately what counts.

            Additionally, Novell has done the very thing you accuse Suse of doing - and it has cost them. They haven't opened Groupwise or any of their other archaic pieces of software and as such no one was using them. That was the real problem at the time Novell bought Suse. That's sometimes even worse than people not paying for your software! They've also retro-fitted Novell on to effectively a proprietary Suse Linux in OES which has not only alienated Linux users but has also completely alienated and failed to attract existing Netware users - who've usually gone to Windows Server. They've handled that so badly it's unreal.

            Apart from that, as for the grass-roots engineering target, it is an entranched place where you find people either deeply tied to debian or to red hat. They don't give a damn about anything else, even if it's a nice piece of engineering as SuSE has always been.

            I'm not entirely sure what that means, but that sounds like a problem with Novell's management and leadership.

            AS FOR NOVELL, once it bought SuSE, they freed everything that wasnt already free in SuSE and then they freed some NOVELL software too.

            They freed some Suse and Novell software they didn't care about, and much of the Novell software they did free like Hula fell by the wayside very quickly. The important software that they should have open sourced and found a business model around like Red Hat's to get people really using it again they didn't, and it's all been left to rot and stagnate. Novell's revenue has steadily declined since just as it did before the Suse takeover.

            They hired people, they had for example 3 engineers on the ATI drivers, they have developed new distribution tools like the build system and the SuSE studio which are excellent and innovative.

            What money have they made off that? Their much touted 'Enterprise Linux Desktop' is absolutely nowhere to be seen. Suse Studio is possibly the most different thing they've done, but again, they need to turn that into revenue. They just haven't made the money from Suse that they should have done.

            Also there is a text online from one of SuSE founder that says that after the buyout, the 5000 NOVELL people listened to the 500 SuSE people and got along with the pro

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by couchslug (175151)

          "Want to bet that Novell becomes a litigation factory eventually?"

          SCO is dead. Long live SCOvell!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lennier (44736)

        Being signatory to a dodgy, borderline-illegal, patent protection racket which offended anyone who understood the GPL certainly was one way to differentiate their Linux product from all the rest, yes.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jim_v2000 (818799)
          There's no such thing as "borderline-illegal". That's just stupid shit people say when they don't like something someone else is doing.
          • Treason never prospers, what's the reason?
            For if it prospers, none dare call it treason.

          • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:36PM (#31409604)

            Yes there is such a thing as bordering the illegal.

            When something is per se illegal, but a team of lawyers with questionable ethics find a way to phrase it that somehow circumvents the law, that situation is certainly in the border of the illegal.

            When something goes against the spirit of the law, but steps carefully over regulations, and is "technically" legal, that is bordering the illegal too.

          • There's no such thing as "borderline-illegal". That's just stupid shit people say when they don't like something someone else is doing.

            Sometimes, yes. Other times, please realize there are shades of grey.

      • by cptdondo (59460) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:13PM (#31409426) Journal

        Novell has a long, long history of making short-sighted decisions that eventually turn out badly.

        It failed to see the shift from dedicated, limited network OS to distributed peer-to-peer networking.

        It didn't react in time to dump IPX/SPX and got left out of the whole internet thing.

        It bought Wordperfect about the time it tanked, then couldn't make a go of it.

        Then it bought Suse, and screwed that up too.

        Now it's got wads of cash. How much do you want to bet it will make a short-term decision that ends badly?

        • Agreed. Novell has been disfunctional since Netware version 3, in my opinion.

          "It bought Wordperfect about the time it tanked, then couldn't make a go of it."

          Novell buying WordPerfect for $885 million [faqs.org] was an amazing decision. What amazed me most was that apparently Novell top managers apparently had no serious intention of being in the business of selling word processing software.

          In 1996, 2 years later, Novell sold WordPerfect to Corel.
        • by Kennon (683628) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @03:15AM (#31410766) Homepage

          I pretty much agree with every point you make here except this "Then it bought Suse, and screwed that up too." I don't understand why so many people repeat this. If I recall correctly SuSE was failing as a commercial Linux company when Novell acquired them. They were on their way to Mandrake-ville. Where I work we have hundreds of SLES servers in production today and they are rock solid. Fast, reliable, super easy to manage. I would put my SLES datacenters up against a Red Hat shop any day of the week. And Novell licensing is so much cheaper than Red Hat we basically have a site license for the cost it would take to license half our servers for support to Red Hat. Not to mention the fact that Red Hat basically abandoned the Desktop a while ago and SLED is a great windows replacement for a significant portion of our end users who don't require the few remaining windows client-servers apps we have left.

          The stupid MS agreement and not ending support for these crap legacy apps is what is killing them. If you look at the numbers, the Linux division of Novell is profitable. The problem is the boat-anchor of closed source legacy BS they are still supporting is dragging down the whole company. Instead Novell has too many old timer bean counters at the helm who don't understand that the word Free does not mean free.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by segedunum (883035)

            I pretty much agree with every point you make here except this "Then it bought Suse, and screwed that up too." I don't understand why so many people repeat this.

            Probably because it's true.

            If I recall correctly SuSE was failing as a commercial Linux company when Novell acquired them.

            Well, Suse as part of Novell is still failing if you think it was before, and it's only recently that through some creative accounting they have allegedly broke even.

            They were on their way to Mandrake-ville.

            It's not unusual fo

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by neurovish (315867)

              The Linux division has broke even, thanks to Microsoft's coupons, but the point is it is still a drop in the ocean when compared to the total revenue from Netware and other software - even if it is declining. They just haven't worked out what to do with that older proprietary software and haven't worked out what business model they want.

              I was actually surprised to see that Novell's "Open Platform Solutions" account for about 21% of their positive operating income ("Identity and Security Management" and "Workgroup" are the other units that made money last year) for 2009 (2008 was about 10%, 2007 was about 6%). Novell still posted a $206M operating loss for the year (SuSE profit was $87.355M). The only time Novell has ever made a yearly profit in the last five years were in 2005 and 2006, thanks only to agreements with Microsoft and lawsui

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by segedunum (883035)

                I was actually surprised to see that Novell's "Open Platform Solutions" account for about 21% of their positive operating income

                Let's be honest, it is ridiculously easy to redefine what the 'Open Platform Solutions' division is in order to make the figures look better.

                Novell still posted a $206M operating loss for the year (SuSE profit was $87.355M). The only time Novell has ever made a yearly profit in the last five years were in 2005 and 2006, thanks only to agreements with Microsoft and lawsuit settleme

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Have you ever taken an MSDN certification for Windows NT 4 (long time ago, required for a contract). ALL questions revolved around migrating to/from Novell networks and integrating them. However they depended on one another, they certainly did.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Degrees (220395)

        This was a really big part of it. The other aspect that people seem to ignore was the back-and-forth sales calls on big customers by both Novell and Microsoft.

        Novell: "We've got this great OS now, and it is inexpensive, and if you later want to part ways, there's Red Hat and other companies who you can turn to for support. It's the new thing, and Microsoft is 'Legacy'. You want the newest and the best, don't you?"

        Customer: "Well Microsoft does kind of suck, and is expensive."

        Microsoft: "So Novell is tell

      • Jeremy Allison shows that precisely the reverse is what happened. Novell lost a lot of open source credibility: any gains for Microsoft were extremely shortlived, and ruined by their OOXML manipulations, their support of SCO, their mysterious claims of Linux patent infringement for which they've refused to name a single example but keep claiming that such a list exists, etc.

        Novell lost Jeremy due to their violations of the GPL in their collaborations with Samba, and Jeremy's work with Samba was one of the a

      • by WebCowboy (196209)

        You might ponder why Novell would associate itself with Microsoft--a business of the kind Novell most think would be best to stay far away from. I think that in this case we've seen the story play out in the automotive industry. Perhaps Novel should've heeded the lesson.

        Novell is like Chrysler. At one time, not so long ago, both companies were "second bananas" in their respective industries that despite past troubles and having to face major crossroads were showing promise and were prosperous and improv

    • by linumax (910946) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:32PM (#31409568)
      +5 Insightful? Really?! Microsoft has hundreds of partners of different sizes, many have been with them for decades, some competing at the same time and are still alive and well and some have been bought out.

      In Novell's case however, it's not like they were taking over the world before "closing paths" with MS, they were already in dire straits and had nothing like the growth rate of Redhat. It's all guesswork but their partnership extending Novell's life seems like a much more likely outcome than your assessment of what happened.
      • by cgenman (325138)

        I would agree. The Microsoft deal with Novell seemed to be a question of momentary face saving at a time when Microsoft seemed religiously opposed to open source. The Novell deal changed that perception to just being opposed to open source on financial grounds.

        I'm not seeing, really, what Microsoft has to lose if Novell and SuSE fall down. "Saving Face" is not an underlinable financial statement, and nobody ever got rich saving face in front of the open source community. Microsoft could turn and partner

        • My biggest issue, is if MS bought out Novell and maintained SuSE, it would drive a wedge in the Linux community even farther than has already happened. It may do better to spin off Mono in a joint partnership with MS to a non-profit foundation to maintain the platform. This could improve distribution beyond SuSE into other areas. Then Novell could concentrate on their service line, and perhaps let SuSE die, or release all of the SuSE specific bits to the community, for introduction into other distros. N
          • This could improve distribution beyond SuSE into other areas. Then Novell could concentrate on their service line, and perhaps let SuSE die, or release all of the SuSE specific bits to the community, for introduction into other distros. Novell could easily go the IBM path and become a systems integration and management company concentrating on Linux, over being a specific software provider.

            For enterprise level systems (think SAN storage), the two major distributions that are supported are RHEL and SLES. A

        • by Degrees (220395) <degrees@@@sbcglobal...net> on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @02:42AM (#31410618) Homepage Journal

          I agree. It is all gain for Microsoft when Novell burns.

          No more competition in the user directory space: Active Directory for the ultimate win. (Local data center) Email is down to Exchange versus Domino. MS SMS no longer has to compete with ZENworks. (Note that Novell has ZENworks for Linux now, too). The Google Wave server that Novell is working on will go down in the flames too.

          Most of the migrations will be from SuSE to Red Hat - but some will be from SuSE to Windows. And all those Red Hat users will have to authenticate to Active Directory. It won't be any surprise when the Windows clients get right in to Windows servers, but the Red Hat boxen have inexplicable delays, random timeouts, and "what we have here... is a failure to... authenticate".

          It's all win for Microsoft when their potential (hold-out) customers lose an alternative.

      • Jeremy Allison explains this better than I do. Sure, there are companies that aren't stratigic for Microsoft. But they do tend to eat their partners or take over their partner's niches to their partners detriment. Who do you think is Logitech's largest competitor?
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:34PM (#31409584)

      Once you start with MS your paths close up until the only remaining one is: they own you.

      Apple did pretty well with that 'investment' by MS a decade or so ago.

      • That "investment" of $150Mill worth of non-voting shares was cashed in at a good profit a few years later.
        Apple had a cash heap of over $15Billion at the time and no debt. The $150Mill was simply a confidence move.
        If anybody did well out of it it was Microsoft. They got to keep using the Quicktime code they were illegally using in Windows and Apple's promise to keep putting IE for Mac as the preferred browser. In return Microsoft promised to keep pumping out MS Office for the Mac for several more years. Tha

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jpobst (262199)

      Without Microsoft, Novell would have hit this crossroad many years ago. Novell could not have slowly and organically built a Linux business fast enough to replace lost revenue from the decline in things like NetWare. Microsoft gave them cash, marketshare, and mindshare (with paying enterprises, not the FOSS community of course).

      Indeed, the Linux business of Novell has steadily increased and is one of the bright spots if they are allowed to continue. But it is doubtful that an investment firm is going to

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by houghi (78078)

      Yeah, because if they stayed away from Microsoft, then they would not have gotten attention from a hedge-fund company. Novell is not trying to sell itself because they are doing something bad, Elliot is trying to buy because they are doing so good.

  • by ipquickly (1562169) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:05PM (#31409378) Homepage

    Why would MS even care?
    In fact if Novell fails, along with what recently happened with MySQL and Open Solaris, MS can brag about how proprietary software is the way to go.

    Call my cynical, but any inroads into open source software by MS have been either because they had to, or because they had a direct benefit from the public image attained by playing nice with open source software.

    At the end of the day, the fact remains. MS would like everyone to use their proprietary software. MS would like everyone to forget about open source.

    The only way this will ever change is if open source becomes more profitable to them than proprietary software.
    Then MS would transform into the #1 proponent of open source.

    Think of the shareholders!

    • by williamhb (758070)

      Why would MS even care? In fact if Novell fails, along with what recently happened with MySQL and Open Solaris, MS can brag about how proprietary software is the way to go.

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if MS bought Novell for precisely that reason. They might even push WINE and Mono so that SUSE can be seen as "the cheap (connotation of rubbishy) system that you play with before buying Windows licenses when you want to do things for real." Turn your competitors into loss-leaders (as Oracle seems intent on doing with MySQL).

    • In fact if Novell fails, along with what recently happened with MySQL and Open Solaris, MS can brag about how proprietary software is the way to go.

      And, actually, Microsoft would have a good point. If I were a Sun admin right now, I'd be very, very worried. Similarly, if you built an enterprise around SuSE, you'd likely be facing some pretty steep transition costs to move over to Red Hat.

      On the other hand, Windows will be around forever, and Microsoft (god bless/curse them) will ensure that binary compatibility is maintained until the apocalypse, and that upgrades are fairly trivial affairs. When we replace a server, we install whatever version of W

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Yes I know... its a shame MS isn't as bad as everyone would like.

        However, look at the things they do do wrong, its mainly complexity and partly 'new stuff'. I'm looking to port one of my old apps to the new Visual Studio... and its all changed beyond recognition so I have to go learn a brand new framework (again) to do the same thing I did last time, which in itself required learning a new framework. Its like they can never quite get it right, so continually replace the old 'crap' with new shiny stuff.. unt

  • Rubbish article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gorobei (127755) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:12PM (#31409416)

    Trying to pretend this is some giant strategic cat-fight is a waste of time. I can only assume the author of the article is trying to gin up his importance and earn a few thou in consulting fees.

    The big companies have already figured out that Linux works just fine in datacenters. Most managers don't know or care if they are running Redhat, Ubuntu, Suse, or a home-roll. They do know that Linux isn't going to vanish just cos some random firm gets bought out.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      If your manager doesn't care which Linux distribution you're running (especially if it's a difficult-to-maintain home roll) please don't be an ass: pick something sane and maintainable, with good version control and reporting.

      If it "doesn't matter" then pick what works best; it'll allow you to concentrate on the important sysadmin tasks like reporting, performance metrics, and the like - not security exploits, difficult-to-patch source trees, and god knows what else mindrotfuck.

  • IBM should buy them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:14PM (#31409434) Journal

    Novell still has the copyrights to Unix.

    If Microsoft were to buy them we could see a re-run of IBM vs. SCO, with Microsoft playing SCO but, having learned from SCO where the land mines are and having the REAL copyright ownership, going after any places where they might win and winning. They might be able to collect a "Microsoft Tax" on any remaining Unix vendors that are still running under ongoing licenses. They might find places where other vendors weren't covered by previous licenses. They might find some code leakage from Unix to open source projects and go after them, beating them into submission or bankruptcy, maybe winning on the merits, maybe winning by just having big pockets while open-sourcerers live on a shoestring. This could be a disaster for IBM, open source, any remaining proprietary Unix vendors, etc.

    If IBM buys Novell they are protected from this sort of attack on their current business model from now on. They have the option of releasing the Unix code base under open-source licenses. I could go on.

    IBM has the bux, the incentive, and the smarts. So I'm not just hoping, but betting, on them.

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:20PM (#31409490) Homepage Journal
      Forget about Unix copyrights. No litigation value remaining because of the time they were in the public domain, and the time they were released under the BSD license. Look how far it got SCO.
      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Forget about Unix copyrights. No litigation value remaining because of the time they were in the public domain, and the time they were released under the BSD license. Look how far it got SCO.

        Yes, but having them is a heck of a lot better than NOT having them. Add in the Novell customer base and an active and popular (in Europe) linux distribution and it looks like a nice package.

        • How is having them better if they are arguably in the public domain and obsolete too? Be concrete.
      • I hope you're right, Bruce. (Did the terms of the BSD deal ever come out publicly? If so I missed it.)

        My concern is that SCO only had a license, while Novell has the actual copyrights, for whatever they're worth. IMHO that could make just enough of a difference that we could be in for another ride on the legal mill-of-the-gods merry-go-round - with Microsoft funding it openly and directly from their Marianas-Trench-deep pockets.

        Or (worse!) that the perceived potential for such an action could be used to p

    • by selven (1556643)

      proprietary unix vendors

      Wait, does that include OSX?

    • If Microsoft were to buy them we could see a re-run of IBM vs. SCO, with Microsoft playing SCO

      Microsoft is trying to clean up its image, and avoid as much attention as possible from the EU and DoJ.

      They won't do this. I'd put money on it.

      PS. Mono/moonlight is safe. The absolute worst Microsoft could do would be to fork C#, which also hurt its image, attract regulators, and piss off windows-based .NET developers. A legally-binding promise not to sue is a legally-binding promise not...to...sue. Microsoft would have a tough time even finding a judge who would agree to bring such a case to trial.

  • by alen (225700) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:17PM (#31409464)

    Apple has a fully licensed MS Exchange client on 50 million or so iphones and ipods
    Snow Leapard has a fully licensed MS Exchange 2007 client
    MS Office for Mac will have Outlook in the next version
    Rumors are Bing is going to displace Google as the default search engine on the iphone
    Apple is big in Open Source since OS X is based on some version of BSD. FreeBSD I think
    Microsoft doesn't seem to want to compete in the mobile space or with MP3 players. the Zune was a total waste of great hardware
    Apple doesn't seem to want to compete in the Enterprise Software market where MS likes to be these days

    And Google with their vision of the cloud is the common enemy to Apple and Microsoft's fat client strategy

    • by cgenman (325138)

      Microsoft doesn't seem to want to compete in the mobile space or with MP3 players. the Zune was a total waste of great hardware
      Apple doesn't seem to want to compete in the Enterprise Software market where MS likes to be these days

      Microsoft just announced their revamped phone interface, which looks like they spent a lot of effort to go head-on with Apple. Their electronics division continues to pour money into the hole that is Zune: the Xbox 360 just got full Zune support.

      Apple, on the other hand, by your c

      • Apple has had a cloud strategy for years with MobileMe. It hasn't had the penetration of Google's offerings, since Apple sought to charge for the service and Google earns through ads. But they have been throwing not inconsiderable weight behind what is becoming more and more a compelling cloud-based feature set.

        And Microsoft has Azure. So it's not about "burning the Web" in hope to bring Google down with it - it's a fight for whose turf it will end up being.

      • by JAlexoi (1085785)
        OMFG! MobileMe is a classic central server system. In no way MobileMe is a cloud! Branding something a "cloud" just because some idiot baboons at Apple corporate marketing decided to does not make it true.
        A cloud is a "multiplicity", not a "singularity". MobileMe, and most of Apple's products, are as far from the cloud concept as they ever were.
    • by mjwx (966435)
      What do you mean by "these days"?

      MS and Apple have always been the best of friends. It was MS who saved apple from bankruptcy in 1997, even Darth Jobs said that "People must get over the idea that in order for Apple to win Microsoft must lose". Apple's business tactics practically mirror that of a much smaller Microsoft with less ethics.

      If Linux or Google makes any inroads into the desktop you can practically bet on a Microsoft/Apple merger, especially if Apple falls into financial trouble (not that h
  • by Fex303 (557896) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:20PM (#31409492)

    In news just to hand, it seems that Microsoft might have ever had any open source credibility whatsoever.

    "Oh yeah, Microsoft are totally all over that open source shit," according to Richard M Stallman, the open source movement's supreme leader by virtue of prime beardiness and epic ninja skills. "If they let Novell die, then I'll have no choice but to see them as money-grubbing organisation who simply try to wring every last cent from their customers, rather than the benevolent and inspiring open source leaders that they are today."

    Mr Stallman was later spotted sharpening his katana [xkcd.com].

    Stay tuned for more updates, unfounded speculation and general craziness masquerading as 'analysis' as it comes to hand.

  • Microsoft did the same thing with Apple in the '90s. They bought a huge stake in Apple, right when they were sinking down the toilet and then proclaimed that they were not a monopoly. Having competition - even propped up competition - is better for business.

    If Microsoft were the only kid on the block then you know the government is going to be looking closer at them.

    No suprise, either, that Novell is going down the tubes. I've been hearing about them for several years in the data center. However, I can se
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dangitman (862676)

      Microsoft did the same thing with Apple in the '90s. They bought a huge stake in Apple, right when they were sinking down the toilet and then proclaimed that they were not a monopoly. Having competition - even propped up competition - is better for business.

      No. Microsoft bought a small number of non-voting shares as part of a court settlement. There was nothing "huge" about it, and it had nothing to do with the appearance of competition or anything like that.

  • Who will own Unix? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:36PM (#31409592) Journal

    SCO lost because Novel owns Unix, the utilities, posix, and how it operates.

    I am afraid of someone like Microsoft buying Unix only to cease and desist any Unix like product that looks similar. What better way to get back at Oracle and kill Linux then to own the unix standard?

    • by sowth (748135) *

      If AT&T couldn't do it to BSD, then what makes you think Microsoft will have a better chance with Linux? USL v. BSDi [wikipedia.org]

      • ... and where exactly is FreeBSD today?

        Gnu/Linux totally creamed its marketshare as the result of that lawsuit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) *
        The problem is that the law that made ATT lose that case by placing Unix in the public domain has since been changed. If that case was held today, ATT might have won. Also, it didn't help ATT that the Berkeley folks were able to show that ATT plagirized them.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    IBM is in an interesting situation. They've avoided distributing Linux like the plague, yet they invest a lot of development into it. They base a lot of firmware and utilities around Novell-sourced linux, but simultaneously make every effort to not make that obvious. Novell I don't think is that appealing in and of itself, but IBM would be left having to rework their linux sourcing strategy, which is not a technical difficulty (switch to RH or just live without SuSE maintaining the codebase), but their l

  • Come again? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Angst Badger (8636)

    Microsoft has staked any open source credibility that it has on Novell's SUSE distribution.

    I hate to break it to the author of TFA, but Microsoft does not have, never had, and never will have "any open source credibility". I'm sure there are people dumb enough to think that the Microsoft-Novell deal had any beneficial effects whatsoever for FOSS, but none of those people matter because they already bankrupted themselves in a series of repeat sales of the Brooklyn fucking Bridge.

    Have we really reached the point where someone can wave around a huge wad of cash and say that night is day and everyone

  • by deanston (1252868) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @12:02AM (#31409744)
    Nothing Novell does is special or cost effective any more. Groupwise? Still sucks on the web and on mobile and feels like desktop email from 2000. Netware? Plenty of competition there. Suse? The lizard's cute but can't beat RedHat/CentOS in farms or Ubuntu and others at home. Mono? Regardless of your opinion about dotNET, the sure thing is Mono will always lag behind latest MSFT version and never gain significant production and commercialization. The closer they get with Microsoft, the easier it is for shops that used to run both Novell and MSFT to drop the extra Novell piece and just go with all MSFT. Same old story.
  • by jasmusic (786052) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @12:33AM (#31409874)
    People really think Microsoft gives a flying fuck about its open source cred when their entire product line is bolted away?
  • by jroysdon (201893) on Tuesday March 09, 2010 @01:47AM (#31410324) Homepage

    I hate to see Novell die (I was a CNA way back in the day, and learned NetWare 3.x in high school), but I think it'd be for the best interest of FOSS due to their taintedness with Microsoft.

    Here's what I think should occur:
    RedHat should set up a third-party company that they own. That company should buy Novell. That company should sell all non-tainted assets to RedHat.

    Then what is left are the tainted bits the third-party is holding. Let it just die or shut down or whatever it is that you can do with a corporation to put it out of its misery.

  • ...considering that the SCO v. Novell trial is just around the corner.

  • Is there any relation between Novel's problems and Novel's "friendship" with Microsoft?

    Something like ... maybe ... "Novel is loosing customers because they are friendly towards Microsoft"?

  • There is one problem with assumption that Microsoft will prop up Novell. The problem is Microsoft itself. They are not in the business for the "cred", they are there for the money.
    And as business sense goes, the company that actually has any business interest in keeping SuSE alive is IBM. Last time I checked, SLES11 was the Linux that came from a non-competing company. RedHat does run on IBM's platforms, but face it, RedHat's JBoss is a competitor to IBM's WebSphere stuff.

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