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11.28.06

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.”

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3 Comments

  1. Greg Unger said,

    November 28, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    Gravatar

    I admire the spirit of this article. Open source will be one tough mutt to kill. The very nature of the beast makes secrets hard to keep.

    But I despise what this site (boycottnovell.com) is doing – intentionally or otherwise. “Admittedly, this site has been somewhat vocal as well”? Are you serious? This site has been nothing but FUD since day one. Congratulations. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves for your own role in dividing the Open Source community. The Ubuntu-SUSE spat aside, I’m sure public relations folk over at Redmond are laughing in evil glee at the columns on this site.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    November 28, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Gravatar

    Greg,

    Novell’s path is destructive. I believe that SUSE code (and it developers) will be better off without Novell, which is, at this moment, not a credible code forger. Boycotting Novell would be a tough choice. But taking Novell’s code would be tough too. You lose either way, but while the latter is destructive to one company, the latter puts many companies (and a community) at risk.

    In hindsight, the deal should have NOT been made. BAD. BAD. BAD. I can’t believe they sat on it for 6 months. We’re now stuck in a lose-lose situation. Whichever route is chosen will be damaging. We must ask ourselves: which solution will work better in the long-term (for the community in particular)?

    I used to have great admiration for Novell. I evangelised Novell and Opensuse for a long time. See:

    http://tinyurl.com/ybj2rc (81,000 hits)

    http://tinyurl.com/yfww7h (95,400 hits)

    My change of heart did not happen overnight as it took time to digest. It’s akin to the question: would you still love your father if he hurt your mother, your friends and your siblings? I sidle with those who CARE, not those who abuse for whatever reason. A Novell’s spokesman has already publicly admitted that the decision was a selfish one.

  3. shane said,

    November 28, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Gravatar

    If this site helps convince Novell that their short-sighted, selfish and morally questionable deal should be amended or repudiated, we can all get back to pressuring ATI and NVIDIA to open their specs so we can have eyecandy and legally distribute it.

    As it stands, Novell’s deal does nothing but hurt Open Source, they validate Microsoft’s stance with the EC that their interoperability information is genuinely innovative and worthy of royalties, they bolster Microsoft’s FUD regarding potential IP exposure if using Linux, and they allow a convicted monopolist to engineer a deal that allows them to derive revenue from their only competition.

    What did Novell gain? The stock is coming right back down to earth, their community is fractured, and the rest of the FOSS world is shunning them.

    In the IRC chat, and also mentioned on this site, it was noted that MS is rewriting the Patent Pledge – if they get it right, this site might become irrelevant.

    And I wouldn’t be happier.

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