I've read what I can about the deal and TODAY I'm thinking that there is both more and less here than meets the eye.
Some clear facts that are easy to document:
- Microsoft has been searching for a Linux "partner" for years and Novell was the first to bite.
- There is a customer push for more "interoperability" between Linux and Windows.
- The Linux market place is competative and everybody is looking for a leg up.
- Linux and Open Source are Microsoft's #1 competitor and #1 threat.
Equally true but not often said:
- Novell has an old history, owns & sells Suse - my favorite distro and simply an excellent product. However, for whatever reason Novell still finds itself in a #2 position with no easy way to move to #1
- Microsoft needs to give lip service to Linux and interoperability to placate its large customers
The sad fact for Novell and Linux is that this is about patents. As with all Microsoft deals it ends up being to Microsoft's exclusive benifit. They are like the Borg, everything they touch is assimilated. Even if the deal starts out simple enough Microsoft's own internal dynamics end up forcing the consumption and distruction of their partners. Usually this process takes a couple of years - this time it seems to have happend during negotiations.
So far the only party that doesn't appreciate what has happened is Novell. From Microsoft's perspective this is all about patents, patents, and more patents. For the rest of the World this is also about patents - unfortunately its the unspecified ones that Microsoft implies Linux breaks on a daily basis. They just haven't bothered to publish a list of them yet or to sue someone like Red Hat, IBM or Novell. Certainly Microsoft needs to suggest that Linux has patent problems. Its a critical part of the plan to deal with the Linux challenge. This is why Microsoft supported SCO in their suit against IBM. Problem is that suit is just about dead now and they need another means to keep the question alive. That's why they went shopping for a helper - someone in the Linux camp that would at least implicitly agree with them. That's what Microsoft wanted and has gotten out of the deal.
Novell blinded by its desire to gain market share was lured into the trap. What does Novell get - well Microsoft has agreed to sell 75,000 Suse licenses or cupons for them. Since the amount of money involved is change for Microsoft they can give them away and not really care. No doubt they will be papering the bathroom walls in Redmont, Washington with Suse cupons. Certainly they won't want them deployed - better to pay for 'em and then flush 'em away. Its a small price to play for keeping the patent FUD alive about Linux. Novell also thinks it will get lots of other stuff out of Microsoft - well if wishes were granted beggars would all be millionares. Track records are important here - Microsoft never lives up to the spirit of their agreements - just talk to the EU and anybody else that's dealt with them and still lives.
While a bit harsh I think this comment puts it best:
Hovespian Fell Into the Trap
Mary Jo is correct. It's all about the patent agreement.
After the Q&A segment it was clear that the patent agreement was a defacto acknowledgement by Novell that Linux violates MS patents. Ballmer made it clear that the patent agreement protects ONLY users of SuSE Linux. When questioned about wether the patent agreement covered technology which will be developed or if it covers MS patents already existing in Linux the attorney made it clear that the agreement protects existing Linux in the form of SuSE.
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 SuSE last.
Nice going you Novell morons.
After using SuSE for years it looks like it's time for a change.
It looks to the Linux/Open Source Community at large that Novell has thrown them to the wolves. Certainly Novell's implicit agreement with Microsoft that Linux breaks Microsoft patents will alienate the Linux Community. The contempt for Novell will grow since they have now agreed to make "running royalty payments based on a percentage of its (their) revenues from open source products" to Microsoft. Since they have not clearly delineated what they are paying tribute for we are left to speculate. One article suggests the $'s are "for Mono, Samba, and OpenOffice, as well as .NET". This info is from Microsoft, Novell has yet to say what they are paying for - we just know they are paying Micosoft for something.
I'm sad for the folks at OpenSuse.org. Do they really want to work to aid Microsoft's bottom line? It adds a whole new slant to the concept of a MicroSerf. Calls are already comming in for developers to abandon OpenSuse and move to Fedora. Others are suggesting that OpenSuse get more independence from Novell.
I really don't think Novell understands what it has done. I won't be suprised to see some high profile defections from Novell over the next few weeks. The social pressure on them to leave will be immense.
I fear Novell has forgotten some good advice from Thoreau - don't forget your old friends when you discover new ones.
One thing that hasn't changed since yesterday - I still think that Novell may have made a huge mistake. Only time will tell if it has and if so how tragic it was.