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11.28.06

Intersection Between SCO and the Novell Deal

Posted in Courtroom, Deals, Microsoft, Novell, SCO at 3:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Paul Murphy from ZDNet speculates that one mysterious part of the deal, namely distribution of SUSE by Microsoft, will actually work to Microsoft’s advantage.

Strategically this is pre-positioning for a strike at IBM in anticipation of an SCO settlement, but it’s also something else: a case of winning with the right hand, while winning with the left too.

I will let you judge this for yourselves.

Consequences, Intended and Otherwise

Posted in Fork, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu at 1:00 pm by Shane Coyle

Don’t think for a second that Microsoft isn’t howling over the Linux community’s apparent fragmentation over this deal, with the OpenSUSE and Ubuntu camps now publicly trading barbs (and both are right), and admittedly, this site has been somewhat vocal as well.

All Microsoft wanted from this deal was a little bit of FUD-munition and a friendly competitor to roll out at all of their European Interoperability dog and pony shows to show the EC they are “reformed”, so this public infighting is just icing on the cake over in Redmond.

Of course, what Microsoft still doesn’t get, the strength of Open Development is that EVERYTHING happens in public, even the “family business” and arguments. Fragmentation is healthy, the huge litany of available linux distributions ensures that none of the “leaders” can rest on their laurels. I saw someone’s comment the other day (Digg? Slashdot? Don’t recall, sorry) which was fantastic: it’s “Darwinism for Desktops”.

The amazing thing about the GPL is the fact that it has been able to govern the distribution and development of such diverse and amazing quality software, while bringing together peoples and companies of varying motivations – some folks want to take Linux and dominate the Desktop market, some just want a system in their home which is Free and under their control.

Over its lifespan, as with any legal document, loopholes have been discovered and exploited, but for the most part the GPL in its current form has been remarkable and prevented many from seeing the real imminent threat. Novell-Microsoft has changed that, and I urge you to participate in the GPL3 discussion.

One positive consequence of the Novell deal is the clear signal that it has shown to the rest of the corporate IT world: the responsiblilities a company must assume to be a part of a “Community”, deciding to participe in Open Source as opposed to Proprietary development, as noted by Dana Gardner:

Based on the Microsoft-Novell deal and its fallout, the entire industry is getting a close look at how open technology communities and companies work, according to Gardner.

“The notion that a vendor can have a secret or fuzzy pact with another vendor doesn’t work when the community is instant and global and seamless,” he said. “You need to be pretty open and thoughtful about your announcements.”

The same factors served to minimize recent industry concerns about Microsoft’s vague claims of intellectual property rights to Linux, which were the cause of some disharmony between the two software giants last week.

“If you’re going to work in a community, you need to recognize you’re exposed,” Gardner said. “Sleight of hand doesn’t work, and ambiguity will be exposed and discussed.”

Bruce Perens Saw This Coming

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, KDE at 1:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Here are the prophetic words of Bruce Perens, as expressed in Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (1st Edition January 1999).

The Open Source Definition

Bruce Perens

[...]

Efforts to hurt us from inside are the most dangerous. I think we’ll also see more attempts to dilute the definition of Open Source to include partially-free products, as we saw with the Qt library in KDE before Troll Tech saw the light and released an Open Source license. Microsoft and others could hurt us by releasing a lot of software that’s just free enough to attract users without having the full freedoms of Open Source. It’s conceivable that they could kill off development of some categories of Open Source software by releasing a “good enough,” “almost-free-enough” solution. However, the strong reaction against the KDE project before the Qt library went fully Open Source bodes poorly for similar efforts by MS and its ilk.

Source

OpenSUSE Q&A on IRC

Posted in FUD, OpenSUSE at 12:43 am by Shane Coyle

The OpenSUSE folks held a chat/meeting earlier on IRC to discuss the MS/Novell deal, responding to most of the questions were Nat Friedman and Andreas Jaeger. Topics ranged from the level of involvement that the technical staff had in the deal, to Mark Shuttleworth’s letter, the apparent brilliance of Microsoft, GPL3 and whether Novell can or will fork every package, and of course the whole Patent Pledge fiasco.

Q: Novell claims to have not acknowledged any patent infringements by Linux. But Novell is now paying a tax to Microsoft on the Linux distributions it ships. What, exactly, is Novell paying for?

Nat Friedman: We’re paying for the promise that Microsoft made to our customers not to sue them.
Q: Not to sue them for *what*? For problems you don’t acknowledge exist?

Nat Friedman: We put together an agreement with Microsoft to make Linux and Windows work better together. Now, as everyone knows, Microsoft has spent the last 10 years saying negative things about Linux, including implying that there are IP issues in Linux. It didn’t make sense for us to do a partnersihp with Microsoft on interoperability issues and still have this patent cloud hanging around for our customers, so Microsoft asked us to put together a patent agreement as well. And so we promise Microsoft’s customers that we won’t sue them and they promise the same thing to our customers. They pay us for our promise and we pay them for their promise. It doesn’t matter if the allegations from MSFT are true or not. People can sue each other anyway, and a patent lawsuit is very expensive to defend against.
Q: How did you come up with the value for the “promise” that Microsoft made?

Nat Friedman: I have no idea how they did that. In general, when it comes to patent questions, you look at two things:
1. The patents that the patent holder has.
2. The business over the person who wants patent protection or coverage.
And the dollar amount is usually a function of these two values. So, for example, you might only hold one patent, but if you sue company X for infringing your one patent, and company X makes $1 billion/year in revenue based on their product that infringes your patent, then even though you only have one patent, you can extract a lot of money from company X.

So I’m guessing the team that put together the deal considered both the Microsoft and the Novell revenue. You notice that the balance of payments is heavily in Novell’s favor. Microsoft is giving us much more money than we are giving them.

Novell has a few hundred patents, and Microsoft has thousands. So you can guess that the quality of the patents and the revenue streams of both companies were considered.

Now, let us contrast these statements against those of Microsoft, lets see if we have an agreement yet on the deal structure and signifcance… On the day of the deal, at the press conference with Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian apparently within earshot, Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation, stated the following:

…on the patent side, we dealt with both of these sides of the equation. We dealt with the need for an up-front balancing payment, a balancing payment that runs from Microsoft to Novell, reflecting among other things the large relevant volume of the products that we have shipped. And you’ll see, as well, an economic commitment from Novell to Microsoft that involves a running royalty, a percentage of revenue on open source software shipped under the agreement.

So, Novell is saying they are paying for a promise by Microsoft not to sue its customers for patent infringement, a promise that is tied to revenue derived from the ongoing sale of open source software by Novell, but it’s not a patent cross license you see? No, neither do I, as the saying goes, if it walks like a duck…if it quacks like a duck… you can be reasonably sure it’s a duck.

Also in the discussion were a few mild potshots, one at the Ubuntu folks which I found uproarious, and another statement about folks who are dividing the community by shunning Novell (who might they be?):

Q: Do you fear openSUSE developers will migrate to other distributions, as proposed by Shuttlesworth? Why/why not?

Adrian L: I do not fear Shuttleworth, because people who fear that openSUSE might violate GPL will not go to a distro which actually is doing it. ;)

Of course there is always a risk that people will switch because of decisions, but there is also always the chance that others switch to because of this reason in the opposite direction.

I would love to keep quoting, but you can head over to see the transcript for yourself, another really interesting remark was by Nat Friedman regarding the apparent ineptitude of big bad Microsoft and their legal department, recalling their Lindows trademark infringement debacle and essentially saying that the community should not fear such a bumbling company. But, the question should also be posed, why partner with such a bumbling company?

Also of note was the previously mentioned request by Jason Matusow at Microsoft for input on amending the Patent Pledges, please let Microsoft know how they can correct the problem. It is as simple as running ‘s/customers/everyone/’ against the document, or as stated by Eben Moglen:

“Microsoft should take back the patent promise to Novell customers or extend the promise of patent safety to everyone, not just Novell customers,” he said.

Until Novell repudiates the deal and corrects their actions, I will continue to shun Novell.

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