February 9, 2007 11:23 AM PST

Microsoft: Novell deal a milestone despite squabbles

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft's deal late last year with Novell may have set a record for shortest honeymoon, with the two companies publicly bickering within days.

Nonetheless, Microsoft top lawyer Brad Smith hails the deal as a landmark that still holds the potential of bringing together the open-source and commercial software business models.

"I actually think that when the decade is through, we'll look back, and we'll say the agreement between Microsoft and Novell was one of the most important milestones in the decade from an (intellectual property) perspective," Smith said Thursday at a dinner with a handful of journalists.

Brad Smith Brad Smith

That may be, but the two principals in the deal have hardly been sending love letters to one another. Microsoft and Novell on November 2 announced the pact, under which Microsoft agreed not to sue Novell Linux customers for patent infringement, while Novell agreed to pay Microsoft royalties, among other provisions.

That same month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed that the deal amounted to an admission that Linux infringes on Microsoft patents. Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian took issue with that in an open letter.

"Our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property," Hovsepian said in the letter.

Public agreement isn't necessary, so long as the deal is in place, Smith said.

"People can debate how much (the patent protection) is needed, but the reality is it's provided," Smith said.

And while Microsoft and Novell exchanged verbal jabs, customers have really taken to the notion, Smith said. Under the deal, Microsoft resells certificates for Novell Linux software and support. In the three months since the deal was inked, Smith said, Microsoft has seen far more sales of the certificates than it had anticipated. The company initially laid plans for up to 70,000 certificates to be sold in the first year. In the first three months, it has already sold more than 35,000, according to a company representative.

Smith is also looking for pacts with other companies that distribute Linux or use it in their products.

"We are having discussions with other companies that I think share an interest in exploring this kind of model," Smith said. "That includes companies that distribute open-source software, and it includes companies in the embedded space."

He declined to offer any specific names, however.

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27 comments

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Too funny
"I actually think that when the decade is through that we'll look back and we'll say the agreement between Microsoft and Novell was one of the most important milestones in the decade from an (intellectual property) perspective,"

Ya as the beginning of the end of Suse... I used both Red Hat and Suse before this agreement, now I only use Red Hat.

MS only does things in the effort to make things better for MS. Open source movements do things in the effort to better things for the software itself. Better software equals better things for the customer and society as a whole.

Red Hat makes it's money on services not the software. Red Hat also does things in an effort to make things better for Red Hat, but it's based on open source which is a more customer friendly model. Therefore you are in a better position as a customer because there is never any concern of theft or software audits, plus the prices are lower.

In the case of Novel, they are getting in bed with a company that is notoriously customer unfriendly and it can only lead to the same result coming from them. I guarantee you that in no time you will start to see these same kind of threatening things coming out of Suse that you do MS. Things like software audits and school teachers getting hauled of to Siberia... That's why I won't use them, not until they break the deal..
Posted by Arrgster (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too limited
Red Hat is a public company committed to making a profit. Same as Novell. It does seem that Novell is more interested in the needs of its customers than blindly daheing to a 'religious' viewpoint. Customers want interoperability and the Novell-Microsoft agreement provides for that.
Posted by geoffsul (19 comments )
Link Flag
The bottom line is...
The bottom line is many people do not trust Microsoft and haven't got time to read small print. Now the suspicion is passed onto SuSe.

But there are plenty of alternatives that are safer for customers.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed...
"there are plenty of alternatives that are safer for customers...", MS Windows XX.. = (Code-Base OS/2)!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
Customer unfriendly? You're out of your mind.
Linux is customer unfriendly with its arcane interface and cobbled together OS. Microsoft is king of the heap because it provides something called VALUE. Take a class an business and learn what value means, please!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One question for you...
Have you ever actually used this cobbled together mess (as you refer to it) called Linux? If you ever tried it you might be amazed how much it looks like windows. And this is because.... MICROSOFT HAS COPIED MANY OF IT'S FEATURES!! Good value for Micro$oft to use the work of others I suppose.

BTW, the Linux I've used (I am a professional consultant for Microsoft products by the way and that's how I make my living) is stable and provides almost all the functionality of windows. You might want to try it BEFORE you pass judgement on it...
Posted by C_G_K (169 comments )
Link Flag
Yep - MSFT==customer unfriendly.
Just ask anyone who has run afoul of a bug in WGA, or a
company who discovers that their image installs work no longer
because the CD Key found its way onto a P2P network... Just ask
the sysadmin who patches a Windows-based server only to find
out that the patch undoes all the carefully-built security controls
that were put into place just to keep the thing halfway safe (esp.
those who have to conform to Department of Defense STIG
requirements).

Also, to best put it in contrast: Linux treats the user as a free
human being, whereas MSFT assumes that their customers are
criminals (see also WGA, Zune...)

Value? Let's talk value: Linux has a lower TCO, lower overhead,
lower administrative requirements... and at a far lower cost
overall in the budget department.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
I guess if you can't beat 'em...
What I would like to know is how much is Novell paying Microsoft in royalties? If the amount is reasonable, then it's probably a good deal for everybody. Given M$'s track record, I am skeptical. Seems kind of like giving your lunch money to the neighborhood bully so that he won't beat the tar out of you.
Another question, Novell has some link to opensuse which it distributes for free. There is, I'm sure, nothing in the deal that keeps M$ from suing for patent infringement over the free versions since no royalties are paid. So much for free open source software and operating systems... If the free versions are protected (doubtful) then this would truly be a breakthrough.
Posted by C_G_K (169 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you are so right buddy...
...poor MS is struggling, they only make a few billion dollars a month.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
you are so right buddy...
...poor MS is struggling, they only make a few billion dollars a month.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
re
Microsoft financially backed SCO to help them destroy Linux. Since that backfired in their faces in a huge way, they went and looked for another.

This will just backfire in Microsofts face. The idiots that actually go through MS for this, will learn a valuable lesson: they do not need MS, in fact they are held back by them.

Next, if they try to use it to lay false claims against OSS and bring down Novell, it will not hurt OSS in the least. openSuSE will just fork and move on.

There is no reason for protection against MS. If they had any evidence of copyright or patent claims, they would come right out and say it. Like SCO, MS has nothing. This is just an attempt to skulk around in the shadows and play boogyman.

If MS spent as much time and effort in developing software then they do in trying to combat piracy and bring down OSS(2 seperate issues), then they might have an OS that could rival Linux or OSX. Instead, all they have is an insecure, bloated, overpriced, "me-too" piece of garbage.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
New and unique deal, but same MS here.
MS calls open source "viral", has tried to crush companies that promote open source, now they want to promote interoperability?

I think not. Look at the facts: Every threat to Microsoft's illegal monopolistic behaviors and practices is met with "Embrace and Extend" or "Embrace and Extinguish." This situation is no different. Microsoft has no desire to see this agreement work.
Posted by Microsoft_Facts (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Still smells fishy.
Three words: "Plays For Sure". Ask MSFT's partners in that deal
how things went for them.

I think MSFT is trying for the same play here (to wit: "Embrace,
Extend, Extinguish"). That said, I think MSFT seriously
underestimates what they think they're getting into here.

That, or they're trying to wipe out at least one distro maker, that
being Novell. Problem is, RedHat's distro and its variants are
dominant... even if SuSE fell off the Earth tomorrow, it wouldn't
slow down Linux' dominance in the server arena, or its explosive
growth elsewhere.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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