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Journal tomhudson's Journal: Rethinking the Novell / Microsoft Deal 5

Like a lot of people, I went "what the ...?!?" when I first heard about the Microsoft/Novell deal. However, looking back on it, I think that Novell managed to shaft Microsoft. Certainly, Microsoft won't get much "bang for the buck" in the FUD department if we take a step back and look at the big picture ...

But first, keep in mind that other companies have made mis-steps before. Who can forget the Sun SCO license purchase? But Sun also gave us the code base for OpenOffice, as well as Java.

Novell, in the meantime, has funded opensuse as well as various projects, and defended linux (SCO vs Novell / Novell vs SCO) at considerable cost. Does this sound like a company that wants to undermine linux?

It doesn't matter how Microsoft tries to spin the deal - the deal is not a "payment for Microsoft IP in Linux" no matter how much they say otherwise, since there is no Microsoft IP in linux ...

... nor does it violate section 7 of the gpl, for the simple reason that linux doesn't contain any Microsoft IP, so anyone is free to redistribute in accordance with section 7, whether there was a "patent pledge" or not. If the source code was unencumbered before the deal, how can it suddenly be encumbered afterwards?

The simple answer is it can't be - so perhaps the FSF, and the rest of us, should stop drinking the Microsoft Purple Kool-Aid. The "patent pledge" is a sop to PHBs who get the warm fuzzies from that sort of thing ...

Taken in that light, Novell's public statements make more sense.

Customers told us that they wanted Linux and Windows to work together in their data centers, and so we agreed to develop new technologies and standards in server management, virtualization and document file format compatibility. CIOs want to focus on their business, and they want their suppliers to focus on improving operating system interoperability. The Linux community will benefit from the creation and release of the open source code to improve Linux's interoperability with Windows that will result from this agreement.

Our interest in signing this agreement was to secure interoperability and joint sales agreements, but Microsoft asked that we cooperate on patents as well, and so a patent cooperation agreement was included as a part of the deal. In this agreement, Novell and Microsoft each promise not to sue the other's customers for patent infringement. The intended effect of this agreement was to give our joint customers peace of mind that they have the full support of the other company for their IT activities. Novell has a significant patent portfolio, and in reflection of this fact, the agreement we signed shows the overwhelming balance of payments being from Microsoft to Novell.

Since our announcement, some parties have spoken about this patent agreement in a damaging way, and with a perspective that we do not share. We strongly challenge those statements here.

We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.

Our stance on software patents is unchanged by the agreement with Microsoft. We want to remind the community of Novell's commitment to, and prior actions in support of, furthering the interests of Linux and open source, and creating an environment of free and open innovation. We have a strong patent portfolio and we have leveraged that portfolio for the benefit of the open source community. Specifically, we have taken the following actions ...:

Really, what's Microsoft going to do? Suddenly start suing if people other than Novell continue to redistribute linux? They'd have to "show the code" - something they will never do, and we all know it. It didn't work for their SCO sock puppet, and we still don't know how much that particular fiasco is going to end up costing them if IBM or Red Hat is successful in piercing the corporate veil and someone "drops the dime ..."

So, why not take a chill pill, enjoy the weekend, and relax - Microsoft "donated" half a billion to encourage linux growth. Take it in the same vein as the Microsoft ads on slashdot or in the various linux magazines ... a penguin subsidy.

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Rethinking the Novell / Microsoft Deal

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  • Let me take a sip of that Kool-Aid... :)

    Microsoft, who is currently out of the Unix market, may develop closed source binaries that are released in conjunction with a full Linux distribution, much like nVidia drivers are included with some distros. The binaries would of course not be GPL, again much like nVidia drivers.

    If the GPL does not allow this then Microsoft may develop an install package that only works on Novell's version of Linux and forbids the usual things that Microsoft EULAs forbid.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 )

      There's nothing preventing any company from developing a closed-source package that runs under linux. Of course, then they have the problem of supporting it, rather than the "many eyes make all bugs shallow" deal.

      Given the comparative lengths of time for fixing 'sploits in IE (weeks, months) vs Firefox (hours), Microsoft already is in support hell. They don't have the resources to support yet another platform, and one that most of their coders won't understand, never mind being able to code to.

      This is a

  • ...was never what it was spun as. It was supping with the Devil, obviously, but Sun wasn't buying a $699 blackmail license for each of its customers. Sun bought something very specific, and would have done so even if SCO was still called Caldera, was being run by Ransom Love, was still contributing to GNU/Linux, and wasn't engaged in any legal action.

    Specifically, Sun bought the rights to a huge number of ix86 device drivers written for SCO Unix, whose kernel was similar enough that porting them to SunOS

    • IIRC, you referred to it as "slowaris" :-)

      Mono - why name software after a disease? A freudian slip? Like mono the disease, mono the software just makes you feel like your life is being sucked out of you?

      I'll be happy when this whole SCO thing is finished (and SCO with it). Hopefully, they'll learn that Repensum est Canicula.

  • Linux is grains of sand, MS is a fist. The harder they squeeze the more grains are freed. I'm not as educated about this things as others around here are, but I always thought that the benefit of Linux and other *nix's was that you could never stop them all. They were open and free and the more you tried to clamp down, the easier it was to find space for them to grow. So, for my $.02, I have a feeling you're right and that MS is not going to get the benefit they think they are.

Like punning, programming is a play on words.