[sf-lug] Microsoft-Novell partnership - a comment

Tony vze2jy85 at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 29 17:07:03 PST 2006

A view on the Microsoft - Novell partnership. 

Microsoft vs. Novell, between the lines
By Phil Hochmuth

With friends like Microsoft, who needs SCO?

This is what Novell and the open source community are
learning just a few weeks after Microsoft and Novell
made their historic intellectual property an code
interoperability deal.

Speaking at a conference of SQL database users in
mid-November, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made it
clear that his company's embracing of Novell SUSE
Linux is not a universal show of altruism to Linux

"The fact that [Linux] uses our patented intellectual
property is a problem for our shareholders," Ballmer
said to the crowd. "In a sense," he added later in the
talk, "you could say anybody who has got Linux in
their data center today sort of has an undisclosed
balance sheet liability."

Ballmer stated Microsoft's stance that Linux infringes
on Microsoft's intellectual property. The only Linux
users not in violation of this are, through the recent
Novell deal, SUSE Linux users. Everyone else: put that
law firm on speed dial.

So with the Microsoft-Novell deal just weeks old,
contentions public statements are already flying
between the two companies.

"We disagree with the recent statements made by
Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents," said
Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian in an open letter.
"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."

Novell is now realizing how slippery the slope is with
its Microsoft deal, given that company's position on
Linux and open source, and the fact the lifeblood of
Novell's Linux offering - and, some would argue, the
future of the company itself - depends on the open
source community.

Answering the Hovsepian statement, Microsoft had this
to say:

"Microsoft and Novell have agreed to disagree on
whether certain open source offerings infringe
Microsoft patents and whether certain Microsoft
offerings infringe Novell patents 
 We at Microsoft
respect Novell's point of view on the patent issue,
even while we respectfully take a different view."

It's easy to see this Microsoft-Novell saga becoming
more rancorous and out-of-control in the near term.
(Remember when SCO began suing its own customers
running SCO/Linux shops?) It's hard to see how the
Microsoft-Novell pact will make it easier and cheaper
for enterprise IT professionals to run a mixed
Windows/Linux network.

Phil Hochmuth is a Network World Senior Editor and a
former systems integrator. 

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