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Novell + Microsoft == YES?

Redmond and Waltham make an announcement that's puzzling the industry.

REDMOND/WALTHAM (Rixstep) -- Microsoft and Novell today announced a set of broad collaboration agreements to build, market, and support a series of new solutions to make Novell and Microsoft products work better together. The companies also announced an agreement to provide each others' customers with patent coverage for their respective products.

Which naturally has the open source world reeling: what exactly does SuSE owe Microsoft? What patents do Microsoft hold that can influence distribution of Linux?

And how is the RMS EULA going to work with this scenario?

Pamela, Tom, Natali, Joris, Stephen, Dana, Gavin

  • Pamela Jones of GrokLaw is physically sick. 'Excuse me while I go throw up', she writes, calling the move a 'sell out'.
  • Tom Sanders of vnunet.com seems positive. 'Microsoft will make a onetime upfront payment to Novell for the cross licensing deal. Moving forward, Novell will pay a fee for each support Suse support contract that it sells', he writes.
  • Natali Del Conte of PC Magazine also seems positive. 'The move is one of Microsoft's most significant endorsements of open source programs', she writes.
  • Joris Evers and Stephen Shankland of CNET describe the agreement as 'harmonising' product lines.
  • Dana Gardner of ZDNet calls the news stunning, headlining with 'fox marries chicken, both move into henhouse'.
  • Gavin Clarke of The Register is not so kind. 'The bad news is raining thick and fast on Red Hat, the dominant Linux distro, what with Oracle last week seeking to undermine its server revenues, and Microsoft today seeking to undermine its customer base, anointing Novell's SuSE as its Linux distro-in-waiting', writes Clarke.
  • Open source crusader Bruce Perens doesn't like the deal at all, claiming it's SCO all over again. 'If we've learned one thing from the rapid rise of open source, it's that intellectual property protection actually impedes innovation. And the Novell-Microsoft agremeent stands as an additional impediment', the RMS ally writes.

Open Letter

'Today's announcement of the collaboration between Microsoft and Novell marks the beginning of a new era: Microsoft is coming to terms with Linux', Novell and Microsoft write in an open letter to open source developers and go on to cite several aspects of the agreement.

  • Research. Novell and Microsoft set up a new facility.
  • Office Open XML. But not the superior OpenDocument.
  • OS Virtualisations. Linux inside Windows and vice-versa.
  • Patent coverage. Novell pay Microsoft money. For what is not known.

The duration of the agreement is five years.

Red Hat Respond

Red Hat, the dominant market force and the odd man out, see things differently, calling the prospect of signing a similar agreement for 'innovation taxes' with Microsoft as 'unthinkable'.

In an article currently linked from their home page, Red Hat declare 'Linux has won', 'open source innovation delivers better software and better value', and 'the best technology has been acknowledged'.

They also declare they will staunchly resist attempts by Microsoft to in any way control their market.

'An innovation tax is unthinkable. Free and open source software provide the necessary environment for true innovation. Innovation without fear or threat. Activities that isolate communities or limit upstream adoption will inevitably stifle innovation.'

Red Hat currently control more than 80% of all commercial Linux installations.

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