Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 2nd Nov 2006 22:05 UTC, submitted by anonymous
Novell and Ximian At a press conference in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to announce a new partnership between Microsoft and Novell. The unprecedented deal will have Microsoft offering a degree of sales support for Novell's SUSE Linux while both companies work towards better interoperability between their respective operating systems. As part of the agreement, Microsoft also promises not to wield its patent portfolio against SUSE Linux. More here. You can follow the live webcast announcement, by Steve Ballmer, here. Update: Novell has put up a detailed FAQ about this deal.
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by DigitalAxis on Fri 3rd Nov 2006 00:09 UTC
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This disturbs me greatly, hopefully for baseless reasons.

As several have pointed out, the emphasis on patent protection is troublesome- does this mean Microsoft will now sue anything except their new One True Linux?
Does this mean SuSE Linux will be saddled up with great new technology that other distributions will never be allowed to use, thus crippling them compared to Novell/SuSE? (Well, the state of Linux now is fairly good, so I don't know where that would go, unless Microsoft makes developers take stuff OUT of their code)

I have no idea... but I offer as a counterexample this, taken from the Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt) article on software patents:

...Companies such as Oracle Corporation, a proprietary software firm, and Red Hat, an open source software firm, are therefore generally opposed to the patenting of software[15].

Nonetheless, these companies do file and receive patents. As of September 2006, for example, Red Hat has 8 issued US patents and Oracle has about 350 issued US patents. Their stated rationale is that since their competitors get patents, they must get patents as well for defensive purposes. Microsoft, for example, has about 7,500 issued US patents. In the event that they get sued for patent infringement by a competitor they can counter sue using their own patents. The net result is that both companies often cross license each others' patents at little or no out of pocket costs for either party.

and: (I've removed a regurgitation of the above from this paragraph):

... Microsoft cross-licensed its patents with Sun, despite being direct competitors, and with Autodesk even though Autodesk has far fewer patents than Microsoft.

and finally, and most interestingly,

Several proprietary software companies, such as IBM, have granted royalty free licenses to open source initiatives. Novell has gone further by committing to actively use its patent portfolio against companies that bring actions against certain open source products. These actions, however, cover only a small fraction of existing software patents.

If this information, particularly that last bit, is true, it's most interesting. What position will Novell take now?

I have a feeling either this turns out to be benign, or only the lawyers will win.

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