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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twickline
Member since:
2005-12-31

From: http://technocrat.net/d/2006/11/2/9945

Today Novell and Microsoft announced a partnership in which Microsoft has made some unlikely-seeming promises regarding Linux. What aren't they telling you? First, you can be sure that Microsoft's not out to help a competitor. This announcement paves the way for Microsoft to implement significant control over commercial customer's use of Free Software. And it has significant negative implications for Open Source in general.
There are two significant announcements. First, that Novell and Microsoft are entering into a patent cross-license, and second, that Microsoft is promising not to assert its patents against individual non-commercial developers. The bad part is that this sets Mirosoft up to assert its patents against all commercial Open Source users. There are also some little bonuses for Microsoft, like Novell will help Microsoft turn back the Open Document Format and substitute something

When we say "commercial", it's interesting to note that there are really few non-commercial users: people who only use their computer for a hobby. Buying something on a web site, for example, is a commercial use. Most individuals use their computers in some aspect of making their livelyhood. There will now be a Microsoft-approved path for such people to make use of Open Source, an expensive subscription to Novell SuSe Linux that costs as much or more than Microsoft Windows and that comes with a patent license.

So, the protection of non-commercial individual contributors means that you can make Open Source, but if anyone actually uses it for something other than a hobby or a non-profit organization, there is an implicit threat that Microsoft can bring a software patent lawsuit against them - unless they are a customer of Novell.

One of the questions yet to be settled is whether Novell will violate the GPL, the license of the Linux kernel and other important software, by offering patent protection that is exclusive to Novell customers. The press release pretty much stated that. On that topic, the preamble of the GPL says it best:

We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.

Novell has clearly accepted that license. But it appears that they are now out to make patent protection a business differentiator.

Even if everyone were to be protected regarding software that Novell distributes, there's the tremendous collection of Free Software that they don't distribute. A logical next move for Microsoft could be to crack down on "unlicensed Linux", and "unlicensed Free Software", now that it can tell the courts that there is a Microsoft-licensed path. Or they can just passively let that threat stay there as a deterrent to anyone who would use Open Source without going through the Microsoft-approved Novell path.

With this agreement, Microsoft also secures Novell's assistance in pushing a pro-Software-patenting agenda in Europe and elsewhere. On a panel that I led at the AlwaysOn conference this summer, Novell's president made clear their support for software patenting - a policy that works to the detriment of any Open Source developer who wants to have users without Novell's blessing. You can be sure they'll be at Microsoft's elbow now in meeting with legislators and asking for increases in patent protection.

The timing of this agreement is significant. Microsoft and Novell are said to have been working on this agreement for some time, and sped up its announcement to take attention away from Oracle's recent announcement and to further depress Red Hat in the stock market. The timing of the SCO case is also significant. Recent testimony in that case revealed that Microsoft offered to "backstop" VC firm Baystar's investment in SCO, essentially asking Baystar to be a front through which Microsoft funded SCO's attempt to... charge a royalty to users of Linux. SCO's case is foundering, so here's Microsoft's next scheme to charge a royalty to users of Linux, and to make Novell into the next SCO. Groklaw, a widely-respected journal of technology law, probably said it best with their headline on this story: Novell Sells Out.

This entire agreement hinges around software patenting - monopolies on ideas that are burying the software industry in litigation - rather than innovation. If we've learned one thing from the rapid rise of Open Source, it's that intellectual property protection - the thing that Open Source dispenses with - actually impedes innovation. And the Novell-Microsoft agremeent stands as an additional impediment.

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