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Microsoft/Novell Deal Could Create Two-Tier Linux Market 375

Rob writes writes to mention a Computer Business Review article about the recent Microsoft/Novell Linux deal. Article author Matthew Aslet warns that while some may see the announcement as a step forward, it may ultimately be very divisive for the Linux community. From the article: "Microsoft made it clear that only SUSE users and developers, as well as unsalaried Linux developers, are protected. 'Let me be clear about one thing, we don't license our intellectual property to Linux because of the way Linux licensing GPL framework works, that's not really a possibility,' said Microsoft chief executive, Steve Ballmer. 'Novell is actually just a proxy for its customers, and it's only for its customers,' he added. 'This does not apply to any forms of Linux other than Novell's SUSE Linux. And if people want to have peace and interoperability, they'll look at Novell's SUSE Linux. If they make other choices, they have all of the compliance and intellectual property issues that are associated with that.'"
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Microsoft/Novell Deal Could Create Two-Tier Linux Market

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  • Bad move by Novell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ISoldMyLowIdOnEbay ( 802697 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:43AM (#16751921)
    Agreeing to licence "IP" from Microsoft just gives legitimacy to any claims they are going to pursue against other Linux vendors/developers. It sets a bad precedent, even if those claims are likely to be bogus. It is obvious MS are thinking this way, otherwise why would they pay Novell rather than the other way round?

    Not sure what Novell are thinking of here. Surprised IBM hasn't had something to say...
  • Dang. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:47AM (#16751971) Homepage Journal
    I really liked OpenSuse. Oh well I guess Ubuntu isn't a bad choice.
  • From T.F. summary: "If they make other choices, they have all of the compliance and intellectual property issues that are associated with that."

    Rarely have I ever seen such perfect examples of FUD. This has it all; it's an unspoken threat, dropped only in order to create feelings of uncertainty in the marketplace.

    I had thought for a while that Microsoft was just ignoring Linux, but now it seems they're opening up a new front, one where they're going to engage in overt psychological warfare in order to discourage adoption of competing products.

    In a sick way, you have to appreciate watching Microsoft work. It's not as though this hasn't happened a dozen times before, just in the IT market, and yet it still always seems to do the trick. At a certain point, you either have to laugh or cry. I haven't decided which way to go yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:51AM (#16752047)
    If you're a big company with a big patent portfolio then you have no need to worry about being sued by Microsoft for Linux patent infringements, because you can simply sue them back for all your patents that Windows and SQL Server infringe.

    The real worry, is being sued by a company with no remaining important products, and with nothing to lose. They can tie you up in the courts for years, cost you a fortune in discovery costs, and spread muck about your company all over the press. And you'll never recover a penny, because even if you eventually win in court, they will simply be bankrupt and unable to pay.

    So the solution:

    Don't pay Microsoft.

    Do buy a license from the no-product company. If you give them enough money for the license, instead of being a pain to you, they can tie your competitors up in the courts for years (worst case), or damage perhaps even cripple your competitors' Linux business.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:55AM (#16752103) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft has all kinds of SW patents in its portfolio. MS will sue all the other distros than Novell's for patent infringement, driving everyone to SuSE. Then it will pull the plug on Novell, exactly the way it did on NetWare, when MS folded all NetWare's features into Windows NT.

    The only defense is RedHat and IBM, and possibly other corps with money to fight MS attacking their Linux distros their future OS strategies all depend upon. Maybe Oracle is bought in to Linux enough that it too will defend a Linux version. RedHat is new and bubbly enough that I'm not surprised they're vulnerable to this attack, and maybe Oracle could tell that, too. But IBM should have known that its defense from SCO, which was a defense against Microsoft's proxy, was too close an alliance with Novell. I'm surprised IBM didn't protect themselves from this Microsoft attack through Novell. But then, MS has always made all its biggest victories by attacking IBM's blind spots.

    The other defense is anarchy. Tens of thousands of Linux developers, and tens of millions of users, all across the world, just ignoring MS patent attacks on their distros. If that works, it could also undermine the very patent weapon Microsoft and others wield to destroy SW progress. If they bit off more than they can chew, MS could very well be doing us all a big favor, by destroying itself and patent regime in which it makes its crooked living.
  • An interesting quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lucychili ( 987345 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:56AM (#16752127) Homepage
    [A]n indiscriminate creation of exclusive privileges tends rather to obstruct
    than to stimulate invention. It creates a class of speculative schemers who
    make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvement, and
    gather its foam in the form of patented monopolies, which enable them to
    lay a heavy tax upon the industry of the country, without contributing
    anything to the real advancement of the arts. It embarrasses the honest
    pursuit of business with fears and apprehensions of concealed liens and
    unknown liabilities to lawsuits and vexatious accountings for profits made
    in good faith. Atlantic Works v. Brady, 107 U.S. 192, 200 (1882) (Bradley, J.).
  • The Easy Way (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @11:59AM (#16752187) Homepage Journal
    All of the conspiracy and divide and conquer is all very fun, but seriously, Microsoft doesn't need to work that hard to make more money. The Novell deal is probably just what it looks like, a way for Microsoft to make some money from the Linux market. They don't need to destroy it or any such nonsense. Windows isn't going away any time soon, and sorry Linux isn't taking over either. But Microsoft does have to be careful of running afoul of the GPL in any case, so making deals with companies like Novell, may be a way to get a piece of the market without GPL or antitrust entanglements.
  • I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:04PM (#16752261) Homepage Journal
    Although I'm not an expert on RICO, I find myself wondering if Microsoft aren't tiptoeing within reach of potential racketeering charges, here.

    If Microsoft are planning on threatening people with suits for using their IP, they're going to have to make damn sure that said people *are* using their IP first. If they threaten a company, the company calls their bluff, and it comes out in the courtroom that said company isn't actually infringing on their patents, an astute judge might then ask some rather awkward questions.

    Methinks Ballmer needs to be very, very careful. An approach of, "Nice distribution you have there. Would be a shame to see anything happen to it," could seriously legally backfire.
  • by HighOrbit ( 631451 ) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:04PM (#16752265)
    "Let me be clear about one thing, we don't license our intellectual property to Linux because of the way Linux licensing GPL framework works, that's not really a possibility," said Microsoft chief executive, Steve Ballmer.
    "Novell is actually just a proxy for its customers, and it's only for its customers," he added. "This does not apply to any forms of Linux other than Novell's SUSE Linux. And if people want to have peace and interoperability, they'll look at Novell's SUSE Linux. If they make other choices, they have all of the compliance and intellectual property issues that are associated with that."

    IANAL, but I think these are empty threats and here is why:
    1. Mutually Assured Destruction, or rather, IBM and its relationship to Linux and Unix. IBM has a stake in Linux and will defend its own interests. Also, Linux mostly implements Unix. Almost any challange to Linux will also be a challange to Unix. IBM (and Sun for that matter) is not about to let that happen.
    2. Again, IANAL, but I would think this would be a case of "estoppel". Linux is a hodgepodge. It is a bunch of contributed "pieces-parts" from other people. Novell/MS can not benefit from contributed software and simutaneously oppose it for everyone else. Nor can Novell equitably get away with knowingly contributing to Open Source and then say "gotcha".

    Looking for the silver-lining, I hope this will lead to an officially blessed MS smb/ad client that will reveal some of the inner workings that continously stump Samba.
  • it may be divisive? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:09PM (#16752365)
    "it may ultimately be very divisive for the Linux community."

    No shit?

    This development signals a parting of ways for everyone I know with Suse Linux.
    My phone has been ringing off the wall and everyone is asking me, "What should we switch to now?"
    No one I know wants to have anything to do with this abomination.

    This is nothing more than a ploy to poison the well.

    Thanks Suse, it was great while it lasted, but now you've shot yourself in both feet and we don't trust you anymore.

  • Bill's coding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Z34107 ( 925136 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:19PM (#16752505)

    He hasn't ever coded anything to functional completion.

    Umm, just untrue. When Microsoft was a brand new company, he wrote their first products, one of which was a version of BASIC that ran on the Altair. Not a small accomplishment. Also remember that Windows became popular because of the programming tools for it made developer's lives much easier than developing for other platforms.

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) * on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:26PM (#16752633) Homepage

    Section 7 of the GPL explicitly says it's not limited to any particular thing, so equivocation about "covenant" vs. "license" doesn't get either of them out of it. If Novell can't pass on to it's customers all rights needed for them to redistribute SuSE Linux, then the GPLv2 says it doesn't have a license to distribute Linux at all. If those rights come from a convenant not to sue rather than a patent license, they're still required for SuSE's customers to redistribute SuSE Linux. GPLv3 makes the point even clearer, but GPLv2 has enough language in it to make the argument. I think all Novell's managed to do here is shoot themselves in the foot, and MS won't gain any advantage from having one "blessed" distribution when that blessing calls that distribution's copyright license into question.

  • Yep. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tony ( 765 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:29PM (#16752695) Journal
    So, everyone still happy with GNOME making Mono part of its base desktop?

    Sure. Not so much with Mono, but I'm *way* happy with Gtk+/GNOME. Although, I have been running e17 for a while as my own desktop, GNOME is nice, and I have more faith in its openness than Qt. And GNOME is *not* Ximian/Novell. It's an independent project that Novell works on.

    I'm taking a "wait and see" approach to Mono, though. I never liked C#, so never saw a real reason to use Mono. And the whole .Net framework blows monkey chunks. You can't even call multicast delegates in a thread-safe manner. Who's bright idea was *that*?

    Anyway, this isn't a rant against Mono/.Net. It's a defense of GNOME, which is a damned fine desktop environment, even though I prefer e17.
  • Re:FUD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:30PM (#16752707) Homepage Journal
    Mr. Ballmer is talking specifically to shareholders who think this Novell deal is going to lead to Microsoft releasing portions of their intellectual property to OSS. Which means to the average MS shareholder, "Oh I better sell my stocks".

    Of course to the average Slashdotter, who doesn't RTFA or does any research, this means Microsoft is going to start suing other Linux companies that aren't blessed by Microsoft. But again how can Microsoft sue over patents when they don't own any in regards to the Linux kernel or Linux development stack. Even Wine is safe from Microsoft. It's just some portions of Mono which deal with .NET and Windows.Forms. Perhaps some other technologies as well that have to do with Microsoft Office.

    And honestly trusting press releases for good information is a waste of time. Doesn't Bush send out PR every day saying how good things are going in Iraq?
  • A Call to Action (Score:3, Interesting)

    by businessnerd ( 1009815 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:33PM (#16752743)
    This is a call to action for every free software loving Linux user out there. SUSE IS DEAD TO US. WE HAVE NO SUSE! I encourage all to cease and desist use of SUSE distributions as well as contribution to the SUSE projects. Ok so this is really a boycott, and yes boycotts aren't usually very successful, but there is a difference here. SUSE currently does not offer anything so uniquely different that we could not go without it, or make it difficult to go without it. I am sure all of you SUSE fans out there have very legitimate reasons for loving SUSE, but those features, benefits could easily spawn themselves in a new distro, or be integrated into another distro like *ubuntu or a member of the Red Hat family. If Novell wants to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight, then so be it, but the rest of the Linux community will not be in attendance.

    FUCK YOU NOVELL! Turn your back on us and we'll walk right out the door.
  • Re:Violating GPL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ronanbear ( 924575 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:36PM (#16752797)
    Or more specifically Novell will stay out of any patent based legal attack by Microsoft on another distro/application developer because they're indemnified.

    Novell own a lot of IP such as original UNIX copyrights. Microsoft suing over Linux patent violation might have been a problem if it broke the agreement Novell and Microsoft came to after the previous round of litigation. Going after someone who's already got money off you for antitrust violations might not be a risk they're willing to take.
  • Hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by daiichi ( 888740 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:43PM (#16752941)
    You guys aren't near paranoid enough. Ballmer's reference to IP and licensing may be a future reference. Imagine what the linux world would be like if they built into Windows 2003 and Vista servers enforcement of client access licenses--and the only linux that it would work on is SUSE? Suddenly, all those Linux installations out there that rely on talking to Windows file servers, remote desktops, and what-not--all of those will have to move to Microsoft Linux.
  • Re:A Call to Action (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kyknos.org ( 643709 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:44PM (#16752959) Homepage
    • Novell's patents are still available for Red Hat to countersue Microsoft if necessary because of membership of both companies in the http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/ [openinventionnetwork.com] - nothing changed with that
    • Novell is still able to sue Microsoft over patents - the agreement contains a covenant not to sue each others customers - what is wrong with that? We don't like SW patents, do we? Why should customers be sued? Sue the company, if wou want to sue, not its customers.
    • Novell didn't admit any Linux code infringes any Microsoft IP. In fact, Microsoft is paying money to Novell, not vice versa.
    • ...
    • I do not see anything wrong here. Microsoft recognized importance of LInux - that's a good thing. Companies would cooperate to increase compatibility - a good thing...
    • So what is wrong here? Except irrational responses?
  • Re:oh pleeze (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xoyoboxoyobo ( 945657 ) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @12:51PM (#16753065)
    Sorry, don't have any links. This was for the DNC in Boston, we had an agreed verbal contract with the coordinator. Then it went south when he told us that microsoft had donated a bunch of hardware but then required that all businesses that the DNC deal with had to be microsoft compliant. since we were not, we lost the business. IIRC that was 3 million dollars allocated to local businesses to run the DNC. I'm doubly embittered because that was a make or break moment for the company. As it stands, it broke, I got broke, and I spend most of my time writing technical docs now. Scratch that. I'm triply embittered.

This restaurant was advertising breakfast any time. So I ordered french toast in the renaissance. - Steven Wright, comedian