The only reasonable response to
week's Microsoft/Novell embrace
is to abandon the Suse
and stop all voluntary work on Suse and OpenSuse projects. Why? Because
Novell have signed their own death warrant. And the danger is they just
might take Linux down with them.
The deal was announced last Thursday when Microsoft revealed plans to
make Windows compatible with Suse Linux produced by Novell. The two
companies are supposed to help market both Windows and Suse, according
to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (Yes, this is same Steve Ballmer who, a
couple of years ago, was calling Linux a cancer and communism.)
Writing on Groklaw
the redoubtable Pamela Jones said;
Those of you who think the
most important goal is market
will be happy. Those of you who think freedom matters will want to
throw up. Excuse me while I go throw up.
As for Novell, if history
means anything, it will end up Microsoft roadkill. It's so funny to me
that nobody ever remembers what comes *after* the Embrace.
The main thrust of the deal is once again about infringement of
unspecified patents. The SCO case – apparently
Microsoft-funded to the tune of $100 million
collapsing with Linux being clearly exonerated. So this deal is
Microsoft's second Linux FUD attack. They're suggesting that if you use
Linux, we'll sue you. Unless you use Suse Linux.
Even if everyone were to
be protected regarding software that Novell distributes, there's the
tremendous collection of Free Software that they don't distribute. A
logical next move for Microsoft could be to crack down on "unlicensed
Linux", and "unlicensed Free Software", now that it can tell the courts
that there is a Microsoft-licensed path. Or they can just passively let
that threat stay there as a deterrent to anyone who would use Open
Source without going through the Microsoft-approved Novell path. With
this agreement, Microsoft also secures Novell's assistance in pushing a
pro-Software-patenting agenda in Europe and elsewhere.
A point Andrew Orlowski took in up The
Microsoft wanted this
agreement so badly it's agreed to pay an unspecified sum to Novell for
the Covenant. This might strike you as odd - and you'd be right.
Companies that license intellectual property do so in the expectation
that they receive a royalty, rather than dish one out. But the
downstream benefits to Redmond are enormous. Novell has handed it a
priceless legal filip, and as it begins to collect royalties from other
businesses that use Linux, it'll doubtless see it as a worthwhile down
PJ again on Groklaw
I think Microsoft doesn't
care what you run if it's entertainment you are after, as long as it's
DRM'd so they control access that way, and so long as there's a
"Microsoft tax", so to speak, on Linux, which encourages the continued
use of Office in the workplace as the de facto standard. It does intend
to kill ODF, I gather, and Novell is apparently going to help them try.
The crux of the deal
revolves around patents and IP licensing. It sounds like Microsoft had
been discussing the feasibility of forging some kind of agreement with
other Linux vendors, too, but Novell was the first to bite.
Tim Patterson, one of the commenters on her site:
...it was clear that the
patent agreement was a defacto acknowledgement by Novell that Linux
violates MS patents.
So MS has found the big Linux vendor foolish enough to "legitimize" a
patent claim on Linux by Microsoft. This makes it easier for MS to
claim that Linux infringes their "IP" and claim that Novell recognized
this "fact" and struck a deal.
Now it's only a matter of asserting claims against all distributors
except Novell thereby thinning the herd and finally, deal with Novell
I'm not saying Microsoft
is evil, only that is makes these interoperability deals to defeat its
partner, not to help them....Linux may win someday, but Novell will be
found dead one morning with mysterious bite marks on its neck.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope
that in the next few weeks, I'm not writing about Microsoft suing Red
Hat. That Linux company has had more than enough trouble recently with
Oracle. Or, maybe it won't be Red Hat. Maybe Ubuntu would be the
Why do I fear Microsoft might try this? I fear it because Microsoft's
proxy war on Linux via SCO is finally coming to its endgame. And no
one, probably not even in SCO's own offices, believes that SCO will win.
So, what can Microsoft do? It can bend, ever so slowly, to the simple
fact that Linux is here to stay -- but at the same time, it can free
itself to attack individual Linux companies in the court room.
Cynical? Yes. But after covering Microsoft for almost two-decades, I
trust Microsoft the least when it looks like they're co-operating with
others the most.