Microsoft's pledge to truly interoperate with the rest of the planet, including open-source developers (both commercial and community), leaves two clear victors in the Linux camp: Red Hat and Ubuntu. While Novell capitulated to Microsoft's early demands for a patent stooge, Red Hat and Ubuntu stood firm.
Today, they, like the rest of the industry, got their due: a truly open pledge for open APIs, open protocols, and data portability from Microsoft, as well as what appears to be fair and reasonable terms for patent grants/licenses.
Where does this leave Novell?
Well, Novell gained a few quarters of "coupon cash" from the deal (though my sources at Novell say that customers aren't renewing their subscriptions at a rate that Novell would like), but I hope it recognizes the value in standing firm for openness. What little wind it got puffed into its sails from its interoperability lock-up with Microsoft just dissipated.
As well it should. Novell has a great engineering team. It doesn't need patent FUD to sell its products. Novell can now get back to the business of selling value to customers, not limited interoperability and covenants not to sue. Consider this a learning experience. There is no value in back-room interoperability deals and patent pledges. Not for customers, anyway.
Microsoft has opened up, removing any advantage it may have granted Novell in that department. Novell would do well to listen to Joe Brockmeier, its new OpenSuse community leader. Joe gets open source. Give him a chance to speak. He can help you chart the way.