EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS


Transcript of Stafford Masies Q&A at CITI Forum in South Africa

Posted in Novell at 6:42 pm by Shane Coyle

This is a transcript of the Q&A session at the CITI forum, as posted on tectonic.co.za. I only transcribe as well as I hear, so there may be small errors, but I am confident this is ‘very’ accurate.

Please comment on any discrepancies and I will check them out, I left out any personally identifying information (other than the announced speakers) and there were some times where I could not hear clearly, anything in parentheses is added by me for clarification, triple parentheses represents my paraphrasing events unrelated to the main topic, such as announcements. Questions are in bold, they are from audience members, responses are by Stafford Masie of Novell and Professor Derek Keats of UWC.

…an independent open source developer, on the issue of clarifying the agreement, to me the biggest concern is limiting the protection only to customers using suse and people who contribute to opensuse and, and this is very disturbing to me, people that would contribute ‘not for commercial gain’ which sounds to me as though the protection is for people who hack up the software in their spare time and dont try to make a career of it, and I think this relates to professor Keats’ mention of the piece of the community you’re taking out – what about people that contribute to Ubuntu, or any of the other big distributions? now suddenly they’re left out in the cold and SUSE gets, y’know, all the limelight, so could you please explain and clarify?

Let me address ‘the only SUSE and why?’, I think its because we… because of the SUSE acquisition, the OpenSUSE distribution is within our fold, so we represent that distribution and this agreement with Microsoft, again, wasn’t just an openSUSE agreement, that’s part of the covenant exception for Linux but that covenant extends… it overarches all of our patent portfolio, so its the proprietary patent portfolios and its the open source innovations, etc so its both areas covered – so lets not make it agreement only for opensuse, it was an interoperability agreement with Microsoft this covenant is in place from a patent protection perspective for our entire range of technologies as far as that interoperability is concerned in Linux, so…

Secondly is, this is not exclusive, this is not an exclusive arrangement with Microsoft and we are encouraging Red Hat, Ubuntu, etc to consider a similar agreement, if it makes sense to them, with Microsoft. We, we are encouraging that, especially from a, y’know, patent perspective…

Not for commercial gain? Yes. Those that are hacking, the participants, we are protecting. People that are making a career out of it, people… this covenant does not protect those people, but everything else that we do protects you. We’ve got the OIN, we’ve got indemnification, there are so many other vehicles that have not been nullified by this agreement that you can gain access to.

So, again, make sure that you don’t look at it as an only OpenSUSE thing, it is a broader Microsoft-Novell interoperability that addresses SUSE, because SUSE is ours, and those that are doing it for commercial purposes, they’re covered by, I believe, the other vehicles we have in place, OK?

…Stafford, you said in your presentation two things that I find interesting, you said that Novell does the patenting for protection and Novell will not use this for actually suing people for patent infringements, then you said that Microsoft paid you guys a lot of money for these patents. Is Microsoft, maybe they’ve got a different agenda?

There’s a couple of ways to answer that question, ‘do they have a different agenda?’ I don’t particularly care for their agenda, and I don’t think Novell does, either.

We believe what we’re doing is good for interoperability for our customers based upon the customer demand. If they have an agenda, we have got lots of vehicles to protect ourselves – we have not conceded anything, we have not said that we’ve infringed – they have access to our patents, we have access to their patents – so essentially, its a level playing field. I don’t know what their follow-on agenda could be.

I do believe this is Microsoft’s official entry into the Linux space. If you really take a step back, and let’s talk… the CD’s recording, so I’m on the record… this is Microsoft’s entrance into the Linux game, this is how they get into Linux.

In fact, how else would they have gotten into Linux? If someone can ask that question seriously, sit down and say how… what other choice did Microsoft have? Release their own distribution? No one wants that. Open-source Windows? Damn, no – no one’s going to do that… how do they get into it?

I think they have to get in by assimilating and this is one way of participating in it, and this is to me a big… not just a toe, they’re hip-deep in the water now. They’re really feeling this thing out, getting a better understanding, and you know what, its an opportunity for us to get a vendor like Microsoft, which – they’re easy to bash, yes – we don’t really like them, they have this ‘triple E’ – Extend, Ext…what?… Embrace, Extend, Exterminate type strategy – we’ve seen it in the past with their partnerships, but I really do believe that with Ray Ozzie heading up Microsoft now, and alot of the changes that’s happened there, Microsoft realizes that the future lies in the applications aspect of the business, not in the platform aspects of the business.

This that they’ve done now gains them entry into a huge momentum shift, I think what you see now I dont think we all fully fathom what is going to happen 5 years from now because of this agreement, I think this could be massive.

This is the biggest Operating System in the world, Linux, in terms of server shipments in the history of computing, nothing has shipped percentage-wise as big and as quick as this saturation that’s taking place, with the second biggest platform, and now there’s interoperability between these environments, its good for customers, its good for us, its good as the community and I think its gonna take the Linux community really deep into the enterprise, because I can already tell you whats happening on the ground – commercial customers are calling us in and saying ‘y’know what, this virtualization stuff, we’ve been looking at the Windows stuff but y’know we really believe Linux could do some really cool things for us’.

And, when we engage with our partners there… its customers that weve never spoken to, were speaking to partners that weve never spoken to, so everyone is suddenly talking Linux on a scale that we’ve never seen before, its a good thing.

What this will look like 5 years from now, what Microsoft will look like, how the Desktop Operating System, Network Operating System and Office Productivity Suite landscape will look like 5 years from now will be interesting – I believe it will be a commodity, I believe you will pay for support for them – and not what you pay today for them, and its gonna be good for everyone.

So, also – GPL V3 – just to end it off, protects… I believe, you take a look at what GPL the draft looks like today – if Microsoft ever wanted to do anything and we did it off GPL V3 it’d still protect us, so… we’re confident, we’re big enough, we’ve got the patent portfolio and this agreement’s in place, so we can handle their agendas.

…Being in this environment for many years, one of the challenges that we face is (inaud)corporate way, is an ongoing debate that we have – as far as the corporates are concerned, there is no single throat to choke, so they are hesitant, they are not making that leap of faith because, who are they going to sue? Who’s going to be there when something doesn’t work? We are being drawn into, in the corporate space, and even various government organizations, we are being drawn into debates regarding FOSS vs payware and the focus now is not Linux anymore, but are we going to pay for functionality, yet people for many years have paid millions of rands, year on year, for something that adds no value to the bottom line, in some cases. What the customers are asking for, and in any business environment, whether it be Linux or Microsoft, you need to listen to what your clients want, and the client is saying to us ‘how does our document work in Linux? That’s the crucial question, yes you can tell me ODF but my people are working in .doc and when they send the file from one person to another, it doesnt work. We’re involved in projects where Linux has been utilized in the public space, and people are doing their C.V.s and going to public facilities and wanting to edit their CVs, so the strong word coming from the corporates – we want collaboration, we need interoperability, that is the key for us. So, my question… to everybody out there, what should the business model then be? If we are not going to start taking Linux out of the… out of the little developer sitting at home doing some work, how do we get it into the corporate environment? The corporates are not going Linux because they dont have a single throat to choke, and that is the expereince that we have.in the market today. Thank you.

Well, I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this, I think Stafford would do a much better job seeing as how he’s using… seeing as how, basically, Novell is trying to be the single throat to choke, and that is one of the ways in which Linux… GNU/Linux is penetrating the corporate environment.

I think that, unless we have big players like Novell in this space, you’re always going to find that is the situation. It’s…It’s… Even in my own institution, as I’ve said – we are an enterprise customer as well as an R&D organization – and on the enterprise side, even my own techies, I have difficulty convincing them that they should be using Linux and one fo the reasons we have actually… we are in fact still a customer of Novell is because we do have that… capability – we know that if we go back to them and something is broken, there is going to be considerable pressure for it to be fixed, and if it isn’t fixed that we’ve got someone we can hold accountable, so y’know I think that is what Novell is trying to do, they’re not the only player in that space by any stretch of the imagination, and one of the beauties about Free and Open Source Software in the enterprise, and one that we seldom hear the proprietary vendors talk about, is the relatively low cost of exit.

So if, for example, tomorrow I wanted to pull out… say SUSE and replace it with another distribution of Linux, I could do that on 100 servers over a few days at no cost, that is the beauty of it and I think one of the things… one of the selling points that companies like yours need to get across to your customers as well, is that the total cost of exit is also a major factor when it comes to implementing technology.

Maybe I’m going to hand over to Stafford, so that he can actually answer the question, I think he’ll do a better job than me…

I don’t think I can do a better job than you, Derek.

but yeah- that interoperability is absolutely crucial, and one of the things that we do get slapped over the wrist with continuously is that… its the OSS debate vs the FOSS debate… Y’know, we’ve got two streams of our technology as Novell, we’ve got the FOSS stream and then we’ve got the OSS stream.

OpenSUSE is really the FOSS stream, we’ve got derivatives of every one of our Linux technologies that you can download for free, gain the source code to, participate in the community, etc but then we do certain things with those derivatives and that innovation that locks it down, makes it more interoperable, that goes through testing, quality assurance, regression testing, backwards compatibility, all that ‘stuff’ with the hardware partners and then we split out a version of it that is ‘enterprise ready’,

now what we mean by enterprise ready is the following: that its backwards compatible so you can deploy it in a hybrid environment so different versions will work with each other, its going to work well with other operating systems, so theres some interoperability, its going to work well on that hardware, but most importantly we put things in that distribution that you as enterprise customers want.

You know what we do, we license fonts. Y’know, you can go to… there’s several font sites, I could actually go to the sites now, where you license fonts, those true-type fonts, etc. you need to license those fonts because Microsoft does the exact same thing with Office, we license that into OpenOffice – our distribution of it, our derivative of it. So, that’s something proprietary.

Graphic rendering engines, there are certain ways things get rendered in Powerpoint documents, we take some of those graphic rendering engines and embed it into ours, because if a little animation does something silly in Powerpoint, we want it.to do that something silly in OpenOffice in exactly the same way.

Then there’s third party tools like Adobe- Adobe Reader, Real Player, Macromedia’s media little player, those things are proprietary, but you want them in your distribution, why? because when that user wants to open that Powerpoint file, play that animation, click on the link let the realplayer file play, go to a website and watch that flash show properly… you want all of those little pieces in there.

Now, for some customers that feel that’s not important, well y’know, we’ve got the OpenSUSE derivatives of it, but that’s what we do with Linux. We don’t just embed things, we do add things that we believe give it more robustness but it doesnt infringe on the GPL, doesn’t infringe on any patents, etc So yeah, I think the interoperability issue from that perspective is key for enterprise customers.

…Statement, question, call it what you will, thanks for doing the OpenOffice thing… seeing that you’re going to be releasing it, will be great to see if it works with our stuff, we’d like to put that into the market… Because, it is an issue, I admit, it is a big issue… something that we’re looking forward to… so, once we have the OpenOffice as part of our stack and we approach the 4800 server deal in the US, so its a short list now between us and you – put technologies aside, are you going to come after us over patent issues then?

So, OK, let me paint the scenario and you tell me if I’ve got the context of the question correctly.

So, in that big deal, whatever it was – Ubuntu and Novell, and not Microsoft and Novell, and would we then use this agreement as a competitive edge and come up against you. Yes and no, OK?

If the customer does believe that there’s issues, concerns, etc because they have Microsoft interoperability stuff, I think the agreement might give us an edge, but its not an exclusive edge, and thats why we want to encourage Shuttleworth and the folks to go and do what we did, investigate what we’ve done, don’t be fanatical about it, but take a look at it.

Now, there are… y’know, I kinda want to say a few things here, and I think we’ve created the platform for it – we will compete, and I think competition amongst Linux vendors is good, it needs to be there… but we need to be responsible in our competing, lets make sure that we don’t compete to the detriment of both of us, because there’s someone standing looking over our shoulders wanting that to happen in a certain way. Microsoft is in the Linux game now, but they wouldn’t love it more than for this Linux thing to just implode, ok, they’d love that to happen also.

It’s kinda win-win for them, so we need to be careful how we compete, now will we utilize this patent portfolio? No, in fact we provide protection related to that. We’ll never use it against another Linux company, we never have – you’ve competed with me in South Africa and I’ve never utilized my…my legal indemnification, etc etc to outcompete you, we dont do that.

In fact, we’ve made it pretty clear on the website that we believe competition between technologies shouldn’t be based on the potential legal liabilities and FUD, it should be based on the technology merits of those solutions, and that’s how we want to compete.

What I want to say, just to the community at large that’s sitting here, one of the things we need to watch out for, is y’know, these debates – example, the way Derek surfaced the mail, now I may not appreciate the way Derek surfaced the mail but y’know what it creates? it creates dialog, it creates dialog – lets make sure that dialog is constructive, lets make sure we give each other the proper attention, lets respect each others opinions, some people are not as informed as others, some people are not as philosophical about things as others, we are a very broad community, what we need to watch out for is that we will fight so hard against each other it’ll make everyone who wanted to put this stuff into their environment sit back and say ‘y’know what, lets just let this thing sort itself out, we’ll look at it again in the next few years.’

Let’s be very very responsible, and I think one of the things we should do, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, we should embrace Microsoft, we should. Microsoft’s participation in this community, the way theyre starting to become participants in it, embrace it, take what they have, take a look at what they have, lets not alienate them, lets not be fanatical about their participation.

I think, the more and more people participating in this the better, the only company that we don’t like participating in this is Microsoft, right? because is the only company that’s said bad things to this point about Linux, its still the only company that says Linux is bad, we are good out there on those little banner ads on the web, so they are competing, thats a good thing.

Just like I would say, Red Hat? bring it on, SUSE is better. (inaud), bring it on, our distribution better… thats good, that doesnt mean we cant collaborate, it doesnt mean we cant get together and innovate for the benefit of our customers and the overall movement as a whole, so we need to be careful as a Linux community, as a Open Source community, as a FOSS group of people that we dont do things that at the end of the day is going to be to the detriment to all parties within the community, we need to be very very careful of that, so what I wrote down is watch the divide, let’s ensure we don’t alienate, I love the way Derek’s approach is, I like the way he’s dealing with this with Novell, and hopefully everyone who has objections to what we do will treat us the same way, and we fully concede, and on the call with Derek we conceded, we should have been more open about our stance on patents,

and you know what we’re doing right now? that stuff that’s on our website, our statements about patents, the EU, etc we’re actually redrafting all of that, so we are alot more explicit in relation to this agreement, in relation to the concerns Derek has outlined, alot more explicit about the international transversal aspects associated with patents, but I’ve asked more specifically, for a geo-based statement from Novell, because the patent issue isn’t an issue transversal, yes there’s this abstract transversal international aspect to the patent issue, but y’know what, the patent issue’s being fought on a geo basis.

In South Africa, we’ve got issues with patents because Microsoft is starting to lodge patents with the patent office, and we dont want to see that in our country, we don’t want to see the liberalization of the patent, the broken patent system in our country, we don’t want to see that happening in the EU, the way the EU is introducing it for the European Union, we don’t see it happening in the United States, so I believe that this patent thing should be dealt with on a geo-basis so lets be very very careful, very specific about our debates, where we are, and what we are trying to achieve and lets not just be philosophical and… preaching against things, we need to be very very careful of that and I think alot of that is occurring

so, will we compete with you, Gary on a legal basis? No. we will not, ok we will never do that. And, if we do, please raise it. and again, Will we have a misstep in the future? I don’t know, I think that we will probably will have a misstep, but we want to come to the party and say y’know, what have we done wrong and how can we rectify it? I think that’s in the spirit of the GPL and the overall community.

You ended on a good note there, sort of bringing the focus down locally, which is also what I want to do, it seems to me there’s two ways Novell could approach the local circumstance, I mean if Microsoft is busy registering patents with the patent office you need to understand that patents in South Africa get registered by default, so all you need to do to get a patent is apply for it, basically thats it.

So, you could apply for a patent on tying your shoe with your left hand, practically, and it would be accepted, unless someone challenges it, so there’s 2 possible options Novell could take – one is it could respond by also registering patents, which is just going to accelerate the patent war.

There are other approaches Novell could take, and that would kind of lower the litigous temperature as it were, in this situation, and I am just wondering if you would comment on what is Novell’s stance in South Africa and can we work together as a commmuntiy, including those of us who are completely opposed to software patents, to actually bring it back into some semblance of sanity, because what we have at the moment is nowhere close to sanity.


Thanks Derek, and you know the local context is actually the difficult one, its easy to talk about the transversal patent… the broken patents systems that are out there and how it is being done in Europe and the United States; I do think that Novell should do more, and I believe you’ve created the platform for us to voice our opinion, and right now the official opininion about the patent situation in South Africa is being reviewed by Jamal, so Jamal is actively looking into that.

So, we’ve got our legal… our general manager of our legal counsel in India, looking into the patent situation in South Africa and we will officially reply… it won’t be a reply… I think you are going to release an email today at some point, as a subsequent email to the one you sent out, we will, potentially, release an official statement based upon that email our stance in regard to the local patent situation, and yes, there’s many options, yes filing counter-patents or merely just… there’s several, I think, it’s doing pro-active counter-patenting, or we could go to the patent office, and I think we need to actively lobby, and make sure people within our government strucutures at these institutes reporting to fully understand what the implication of this is from an innovation perspective and understand whats happening on an international basis, and how we are fighting this on an international basis and why it does not make sense.

I think that is probably what Novell should do more, than trying to, on a per-patent basis, attack this because I thinks thats not the way to do it, I think lets go to the root which is to make sure people on the ministerial level, the cabinet level in our country, all the way to presidential level and that patents doesn’t mean protection of IP which leads to innovation, protection… patents are actually bad for innovation, and thats our stance as a company: yes we do have patents, we protect ourselves with those patents, and in South Africa we’ll protect ourselves, with those patents and our customers, but as a broader whole, and as a broader community member and as a broader believer in innovation, and that patents may actually stop innovation, we need to be alot more proactive, and I think we’ve got roads into those senior leadership people within government, and we can be influential and I think we should move our weight around alot more, which we will do.

So, thats a commitment that I will make, because I think we need to figure out what we need to do, and you said something earlier, we could do more, let us know, and I think that on a local context, let us engage, I think people like yourself, from UWC, I think your reputation your participation, etc. that plays alot, I can bring Novell the big blue chip business aspect to it, and here are some things we could do, in South Africa, very very easily, but lets make sure that Jamal and those folks work out an official statement and stance based upon that, and thats our commitment. So, there will be a follow-up to that, proactive

…I think that Microsoft, over the last few years, has done everything it can to subvert Open Source Software, thats a given. I think interopability is good, but I think the patent threat from Microsoft is not good… the type of customer that I deal with is maybe not the enterprise customer, the smaller customer, and I think they are wise to Microsoft tactics, they are wise to the fact there might be a patent threat hanging over them if they are not with Novell. And I think, by Novell doing the agreement, sort of to a degree… accepted that there might be some liablity on their part, what about the smaller customer, not the enterprise customer that youve been mentioning all along?

The smaller companies are covered too, I think the enterprise customers, with the weight… the customer pressure, they’ve obviously led us to this agreement because they wanted to see it. But, by this agreement being in place, everyone’s covered- small to big, etc.

You said something there that just slips my mind now in terms of the agreements, and the inference of the agreement Yes, y’now, there are people that say that the fact that we’ve done this infers now that everyone else is illegal… that not the intention, the intention is to address a customer concern, a customer requirement, for broad adoption of Linux on an enterprise basis, we’ve done this, I believe, responsibly.

We’ve gotten Microsoft to buy $240M worth of Linux, ok, that’s 350K subscriptions of Linux, that’s awesome okay. So, they’re going to distribute that worldwide, and they actvely are in South African marketplace, I can tell you that today, they actually are actively doing it,so its a good thing that’s occurring for Linux… its not an exclusive, again, we do encourage other Linux distros to review this, and it will be very surprising to me if the other distributions engaging on an enterprise basis are not feeling these same legal issues that we feel, and I think what I’d like to posit, as an enterprise player and a participant in this community, is that we do represent alot of the enterprise challenges associated with Linux adoption, and what I’m seeing out there right now is alot of fanatical, passionate people.

Because, in all honesty, people that participate in the Linux community are by default passionate, the fact that they participate shows the type of people they are, so its a very volatile, passionate, eager group of people which is good, but at the same time if you do something wrong they just come at you, what we need to ensure is that our actions, our statements get valued based upon the space that we’re in.

As much we value the broad open source community, I posit that the community should really listen to some of the things that Novell is saying, really look at this stuff a little more deeply in terms of our intent, and what we’re trying to achieve. We’re not trying to kill Linux, if we kill linux, Novell dies. We’re linux end to end now, we’re linux everywhere right now, everything about us Linux… Y’know, we’re a Linux company, we do identity management, but we’re a Linux company.

Identity management, there’s so much happening there to open source alot of the APIs, which we’ve already done, the only thing we haven’t open-sourced in the identity world is kinda our directory, and I can tell you what, we probably won’t, because again – the same reason alot of proprietary vendors wont take their big software and unwrap it, like I’ve always said- if you unwrap this baby its ugly, people will run away, ok, there’s certain proprietary software that you never want anyone to look at and also it actually costs a company like Novell more to open source a product and maintain that project than to have it proprietary, it costs us more, there’s more resources that you have to throw at it, there’s alot more testing, etc that needs to go into it, so its a costlier model but its a better model, because its more innovative, things get done quicker, etc etc so it kind of balances out from an economies of scale perspective.

but hopefully the community, as I said, I posit this will understand that Novell’s intention with this agreement with Microsoft is to really drive Linux… to the hilt. And I think Microsoft has felt the pressure, I think they understand they need to do this because big customers are forcing them to do this. And they are at risk, they are at risk that if they don’t embrace this, this will hurt them.

Now, will… be able to extend and exterminate it, I don’t think so, I don’t see it. We have the ability to give them a platform where we annihilate ourselves and we need to be careful of that, let’s not do that, lets understand where we are coming from and have the debates

–(I had a very hard time hearing this gentleman)–
…more of a comment, and then a quick question I believe, the way I’m looking at this, and I might be wrong, anyway- I’m speaking for myself, not the government, y’know when that free software and the open source software and the (inaud) thing come up, we had a kind of paradigm shift and now we are out in more force. now, I;m looking at it more in that light, we now begin… in the next five years we might have another shift again by that time FOSS might even become something else, thats just the way I’m looking at the way the whole argument is, but whether the agreement is right or wrong is not for me, but I’m just saying thats the way I look at it, and if that benefits the business and that enables enterprise, ok, and the (inaud) enables us to provide better services for the citizens then that would be great for us but one thing thats still not clear for me is this issue of exclusive or not exclusive, thus this (inaud) creates alot of FUD, y’know, between Novell and the whole (inaud) the MP’s saying something like that, I know there’s assurance from you that there’s not going to be anything, but when or will, and (inaud) too, when or will Novell make a categoric… not just statement… press release, but something that is legally binding, to say yes- there will not would not be or there could be or there should not be or there shall not be whatever term is used, ok, on that issue, ok, and then the last one is if the policy for my department is we shall only use FOSS or OSS compliant solution, can we take Novell Linux Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise at this point in time, ok, as a snapshot, and deploy it, and… would that be, would it pass our OSS or our FOSS policy, if we say we shall implement FOSS or OSS can we deploy NLD or SUSE Linux Enterprise, in terms of your licensing attached to the primary product, not the underlying product attached to it, thanks.

Let me deal with the first one, which is… specific, clear definition that we will not utilize our patent portfolio to come up against other Linux players, or anyone else.

We need to probably say that categorically, clearly in a paragraph, but if you look at our entire patent satement, we’ve made it clear that we will never, ever, never utilize our patents to attack, or exercise our patent rights with any of the community, ever. We’ve made that categorically clear on the website, maybe we need to surface that with a paragraph that says ‘Linux community members, this is for you and state that, which we are redrafting at the moment and I have asked for that to occur what we’ve done with our patent portfolio, which is quite extensive, the fact that we exist in a mutually assured destruction context the fact that we are founders of the OIN, if you take a look at all of our behavior patterns as a whole, you can see that we’re not about being a patent troll or utilizing our patents for gain, we want to compete on technology excellence, we don’t want to compete on legal liability or litigation, thats not our interest, we’ve made that categorically clear.

yes, we are going to redraft to make it… like you said, legally binding, explicit, that we wont take actions associated with that, so that’s coming and I do think we need to do that alot clearer and not just broad con… but I think in a South African context, I want verbiage from Novell inc, that’s what I’m asking for, I don’t really care about that international stuff, I want what’s going to happen in South Africa.

In terms of FOSS compliancy, and… the FOSS policy, note that everything we do as Novell with Linux, etc this agreement, this covenant, we are not violating the GPL, in fact we are using our patent portfolio to the benefit of enterprise customers. You are a Microsoft shop today as much as you are a Novell shop, you are running Microsoft on 100% of your desktops, y’know 99,999% and you are the one desktop that it doesn’t run on in UWC, but that’s a scenario with most of our customers.

It’s going to be a benefit to you knowing that neither Microsoft nor Novell will ever come to you, and that’s what the covenant does, and claim any patent rights. Now, would we ever, will we ever, without this covenant? No, y’know what the covenant does, it explicitly states that we wont.

So the covenant to me, is… that we’re not explicitly stating our stance as far as the patents are concerned, I think customers dont like the fact that theres that cloud that hangs over the software of potential liability, whether its been excercised, whether its been followed through internationally ever successfully, thats not the point, enterprise customers are concerned with the risk what we’ve done now with the covenant has explicitly taken that risk away, so when you deploy our Linux distribution technology in your environment, you can run it in a Microsoft dual environment and you don’t have any liability,

Now is that FOSS compliant? In our opinion, it is, and what does FOSS foss compliancy mean? that its free and you never pay for it? Yeah, you can get derivatives of that, we can give you that , weve got derivatives of that technology that competes with Ubuntu, Red Hat, etc Fedora, and those things, but we’ve got the enterprise versions of our technology too.

So, you’ve got to look at those 2 streams and what you believe is FOSS compliant or not, I don’t believe what we’ve done here makes us FOSS non-compliant, I don’t believe we’ve done that, and if we have I am here to listen to exactly what it is so we can rectify it

(((announcement – there is enough time for 3 questions, questions will be asked up front and Stafford will address)))

…in your statement, or in your talk now, you mention that you would recommend other vendors to actually look at this agreement and maybe start an agreement as well. What would their bargaining chip be? Because without Professor Keats actually registering all kinds of patents, why would he go to Microsoft and say well ‘let us not sue your customers, please don’t do the same for us’?

…I’m just curious to know, if you’re saying to all the other distros you can go whistle or sign up with Microsoft like we have too, y’know, is that not you’re asking people to give into the threat of being sued as opposed to just going ahead, you talk about community alot, but is that not abandoning it a bit?

((( prof Keats reserves his question for end, so 2 questions will be answered now )))

No, I don’t agree with the way the question’s been structured, and… and what gets inferred in that question

We can’t say and speak on Microsoft’s behalf that they will speak to a single developer thats building a commercial product on the distribution and ensure that they have the same agreement covenant in place, we(Novell) can’t say that I mean, someone needs to go to them (Microsoft) and see if they are willing. Microsoft is very willing to sign up now, they are very very willing , so I do believe small, medium large, everyone can go and do this.

Is this(deal) somehow exclusive by inference, because of the size that we are? I don’t believe so, and I also believe the people that are participating the individuals in the community take a look at the linux distros that you are participating in and building your technology upon, and by mere inheritance of agreements that are in place and the patents that they own and how they provide indemnification like RedHat does, like we do, that by inference would cover you.

So, I can’t say that this wont cover the little guy, because the little guys we are encouraging to go speak to Microsoft and take a look at doing that, and Ithink Microsoft will take a look at doing that I dont think they would be aversed to doing that, unless they believe there is a patent infringement – clear, based upon that little thing that youve done but again this is where we would encourage you then to bring your little innovation, put it on SUSE Linux, and we’ll kick Microsoft’s ass jointly with you. (laughter)

That’s a difficult one, it’s a difficult one, I think… I think for the individual contributors out there, realize what we’ve done and what the purpose of the covenant is.

what was different yesterday when the covenant wasn’t there that’s different today? what’s different? when the covenant was not there, there was the inherent potential liability of patent infringement when the covenant wasn’t there. so now we’ve created this covenant in the interest of our customers, not as a competitive advantage, the little guy, etc we’ve done it in the interest of big companies wanting us to explicitly state that they’ll never have this liability associated with Microsoft, because Microsoft is on 100% of their desktops.

(inaudible from crowd)…in the enterprise it does…(more from crowd)…

so, so lets talk about the relevant distributions that are out there, that everyone is accepting, because I don’t… y’know to me there’s a thousand out there. (inaud from crowd) …

So, what about Red Hat, nothing stops Red Hat from doing this.

Why won’t red Hat do this? Because of a different philosophical approach to the enterprise, now let me make this clear, Red Hat’s approach to the enterprise in the Linux stack is end-to-end open source, everything. Ok, so you’re directory will be open source, your management technology will be open source, your platform, your security stack, everything.

We believe today alot of the open source technology has not caught up yet to enterprise customers’ needs in the security domain, management domain. Where Linux is open source, specifically Linux is completely applicable is the platform, the desktop, office productivity suite, the database, etc so there’s kinda 5 major areas where its good enough if not better than whats out there, ok? where its not there yet, Novell has proprietary technology and partners that provide 3rd party technologies to that proprietary technologies where we wrap our technologies around this Linux technology. so, like zenworks management, our zenworks management suite is a proprietary piece of technology.

Our security, identity management technologies, theres alot of proprietary aspects to that, although we’ve open-sourced some pieces of it. we believe in a hybrid stack within the enterprise, because a hybrid stack gives you greater value than a pure end-to-end open source stack, in time we will get to an open source stack, but we’re not going to take a philosophical stance which we believe will impact the penetration of Linux.

Therefore, we have a greater need of doing this than potentially Red Hat, because Red Hat’s stance is end-to-end open source, which we don’t believe is ready for the enterprise today, there’s alot of hackers, developers and… its a technological way of looking at it, but customers wanting to mitigate risk, providing support, ensuring that the stack is supported by all third parties, etc all those business risks associated with a technology, want to see this linkage, they want to see this interoperability, thats why the covenant is there with Microsoft and Novell.

So that’s… I think you’ve got to look at that and keep it in context. Now, anyone else doing a pure OS thing, they’re covered by other things that we do.

Red Hat has indemnification, as part of a program, they do. I’m not sure about Ubuntu and what they provide to cover that… I’m not sure, but… I think they go on a stance that, y’know what, come at us, because its never been done before, and we inherently believe that its not applicable.

I think they will benefit subsequently, if we do kill this patent thing off in time, they will benefit because they don’t incur the cost that we’re doing. going through all the things that we are, so hopefully that addresses the question.

(inaud from crowd) Ok, (crowd)so what…(crowd)

yeah..I think this does give us a competitive edge, yeah it does and we’re gonna compete, and we want to compete, and we’re gonna do what it takes to compete, not to violate the GPL, not to violate the community members, etc But, with Red Hat toe-to-toe, with Ubuntu toe-to-toe we’re gonna do what’s necessary for our customers, based upon their demand, now if we do whats right for our customers, and they choose not to, and what we’ve done is not exclusive, that’s their prerogative, I can’t be held liable for them not doing what we believe enterprise customers are asking us to do, I can’t be held liable for that, ok?

Derek, hit me.


I would never hit you, don’t worry.

I just… first of all, I wanted to just respond to something that (inaud) asked, and I think that one has to recognize that there is heterogeneity in the Free and Open Source Software space. and there’s times when you’ll want to take one approach, and there’re times when you’ll want to take another approach.

So, if I look at UWC, for example, we were, in our datacenter almost 100% proprietary platforms, I would say that we are now pretty close to 90% not proprietary, and we’ve been able to make that change because those people that hold us financially accountable, we’ve been able to give them assurances and so we need a partner like Microsoft, like… Microsoft?(a misstatement)… like Novell(intended to say), like MP, like Red Hat, someone who we can say to our funders, the… the government of South Africa and the students, and those who have fiduciary responsibilities to the… for the continued existence of the university, that we’ve got some assurances, that we’re not putting the institution at risk.

I think its important to understand that in that respect, we are a typical enterprise customer, but there are spaces where we can live with more risk So, for example in our student labs; so, in our student labs we don’t need the assurances that we can get from an enterprise partner; so we can deploy things like OpenSolaris, which we have deployed, another… another Free and Open SOurce Software platform that we haven’t actually spoken about. and, on the desktop, we also deploy Ubuntu, so our choices are based on practical realities of the situation in which we live, so I think within the provincial government I think the same thing can apply, there are places, there are spaces where you have some fiduciary responsibility where you have to be… you have to have another level of accountability… but there are other spaces where you can deploy other technologies, and I think its important for us to understand that we are dealing with a heterogeneous environment, we don’t have to be just one size fits all.

I want to just also answer, or just respond to Stafford’s suggestion that we should tell you what you can do… and I think there are a number of things that I would like to suggest as follow-ons to this.

One is, you mention the OIN, the Open Innovation… (Stafford Masie corrects him, I believe)… Open Invention Network, as I understand it, at the moment this is still a very small initiative with about less than 20 patents in its portfolio… (inaudible from Madie) but, from Novell, I mean? (inaud) Yeah, sorry, I meant to say from Novell. ueah. and I think that one of the things that Novell could do is certainly strengthen that initiative with more of its… with more of its patents where it can. understanding, I mean I do fully understand as well its complex space, its messy, and… and its, as I said, its anything but sane.

I think the other thing Novell can do on the local front, where I think things can happen more quickly, y’know we have this initiative called FTISA – Freedom To Innovate South Africa – which is actually looking at the whole patent menace from a South African perspective, and I think Novell could win alot of friends back in the community were it to… open the door to collaboration, not necessarily at this stage saying how this should unfold, but at least open the door to collaboration, I think that would… that would go a long way towards… building back some of those bridges.

and, I think another interesting proposal from me would be… I will hand out these little sheets of paper just now, in… April next year, we are planning what we are calling the Digital Freedom Exposition at UWC, and I think it would be really interesting to get somebody like maybe Jamal and Bruce Perens on a platform, and I think we could hash out some really interesting issues in such a… (inaud from Masie) yeah? So, those would be my suggestions and my response

(((to facilitator, confirms if passing out papers now, plugs DFE at UWC apr 19-20 2007, I consider this offtopic and saved my carpal-tunnel)))


Just quickly, go to itconversations.com, Lawrence Lessig, if you wanna… this guy is amazing, do a Google search on him, if you want to talk about cyberlaw, he’s the and what patents are, and how stupid patents are, he’s articulated it better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

but if you dont want to read all his dissertations, and his books, he has quite a few books, go to lawrencelessig.com, go to itconversations.com for those of you that do podcast… and go down and you’ll see there’s actually a link here for Lessig… it says highest rated… there Lawrence Lessig- it says Lawrence Lessig, you can go listen to some of his…

ok, its in offline mode now, but you can go and listen to some of his podcasts…(inaud from Keats)… they’re all in there? they’re brilliant. brilliant, brilliant please go listen to them

(((Facilitator, end of Q&A, break for breakfast)))

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New

  1. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) Has the Full Support of Techrights

    Our support for the FSF is strong enough that we want to occasionally suggest improvements; there are growing frictions designed to isolate the FSF and cause self-restraint/censorship

  2. Why We Support Phoronix (Whereas Some Others Do Not)

    Some people try to characterise Michael Larabel as the 'bad boy' of Linux even though Michael is probably the hardest working Linux journalist out there

  3. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing

    "AI is already used to help kill people. We should be cautious, and know that the best rules we come up with (like no doing magic outside the school grounds) won't be followed all the time."

  4. Links 20/8/2019: DragonFlyBSD Developing DSynth

    Links for the day

  5. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Narcissism in The Community

    "Narcissists are drawn to intelligent people. They take great pleasure in attacking, controlling and defeating intelligent people because it makes them feel smarter and more important."

  6. Breaking the Law Has Become the Norm at the European Patent Office

    The European Patent Office’s ongoing practice of destroying critics/whistleblowers and crushing unions, judges, examiners etc. — as well as threats and bribery of the media — ultimately mean a perpetual state of lawlessness that, if it prevails, will let patent trolls raid the European economy and stall innovation

  7. Links 20/8/2019: KMyMoney 5.0.6, Kdenlive 19.08

    Links for the day

  8. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education

    "If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages."

  9. Links 19/8/2019: Another Linux 5.3 RC, OpenSUSE's Richard Brown Steps Down, Slackware Creates Patreon Page, Qt 6 Initiated

    Links for the day

  10. Speaking Truth to Monopolies (or How to Write Guest Posts in Techrights)

    We need to have more articles tackling the passage of all power — especially when it comes to software — to few large monopolies that disregard human rights or actively participate in their abolishment in the digital realm

  11. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech

    "While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues -- as if it's not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed, because the thought-policing isn't on a state level."

  12. Toxic Culture at Microsoft

    Racism, intolerance, sexism and bullying are rampant at Microsoft; but Microsoft would rather deflect/divert/sidetrack to Google and so-called 'GAFA'

  13. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Introduction

    "The FSF isn't just threatened, it will hit a large iceberg in the future that changes it permanently."

  14. Linux Journal and Linux.com Should Have Been Kept Going

    There's apparently no good explanation for the effective shutdown of Linux Journal and Linux.com; London Trust Media Holdings (LTMH), owner of Linux Journal, saw numbers improving and the Linux Foundation, steward of Linux.com, is loaded with money

  15. 2019 Microsoft Glossary

    How Microsoft internally interprets words that it is saying to the public and to the press

  16. 2019 Surveillance Glossary

    Distortion of technical and nontechnical terms in this day and age of '1984'

  17. Openwashing Report: It's Getting Worse, Fast. Everything is Apparently 'Open' Now Even Though It's Actually Proprietary.

    The latest examples (this past week's) of openwashing in the media, ranging from 5G to surveillance

  18. GitHub is a Dagger Inside Free/Open Source Software (FOSS); This is Why Microsoft Bought It

    A year later it seems pretty evident that Microsoft doesn’t like FOSS but is merely trying to control it, e.g. by buying millions of FOSS projects/repositories at the platform level (the above is what the Linux Foundation‘s Jim Zemlin said to Microsoft at their event while antitrust regulators were still assessing the proposed takeover)

  19. Microsoft Grows Within and Eats You From the Inside

    Microsoft entryism and other subversive tactics continue to threaten and sometimes successfully undermine the competition; Microsoft is nowadays doing that to core projects in the Free/Open Source software world

  20. Links 18/8/2019: New KNOPPIX and Emmabuntus Released

    Links for the day

  21. Links 17/8/2019: Unigine 2.9 and Git 2.23

    Links for the day

  22. Computer-Generated Patent Applications Show That Patents and Innovations Are Very Different Things

    The 'cheapening' of the concept of 'inventor' (or 'invention') undermines the whole foundation/basis of the patent system and deep inside patent law firms know it

  23. Concerns About IBM's Commitment to OpenSource.com After the Fall of Linux.com and Linux Journal

    The Web site OpenSource.com is over two decades old; in its current form it's about a decade old and it contains plenty of good articles, but will IBM think so too and, if so, will investment in the site carry on?

  24. Electronic Frontier Foundation Makes a Mistake by Giving Award to Microsoft Surveillance Person

    At age 30 (almost) the Electronic Frontier Foundation still campaigns for privacy; so why does it grant awards to enemies of privacy?

  25. Caturdays and Sundays at Techrights Will Get Busier

    Our plan to spend the weekends writing more articles about Software Freedom; it seems like a high-priority issue

  26. Why Techrights Doesn't Do Social Control Media

    Being managed and censored by platform owners (sometimes their shareholders) isn’t an alluring proposition when a site challenges conformist norms and the status quo; Techrights belongs in a platform of its own

  27. Patent Prosecution Highways and Examination Highways Are Dooming the EPO

    Speed is not a measure of quality; but today's EPO is just trying to get as much money as possible, as fast as possible (before the whole thing implodes)

  28. Software Patents Won't Come Back Just Because They're (Re)Framed/Branded as "HEY HI" (AI)

    The pattern we've been observing in recent years is, patent applicants and law firms simply rewrite applications to make these seem patent-eligible on the surface (owing to deliberate deception) and patent offices facilitate these loopholes in order to fake 'growth'

  29. IP Kat Pays the Price for Being a Megaphone of Team UPC

    The typical or the usual suspects speak out about the so-called 'prospects' (with delusions of inevitability) of the Unified Patent Court Agreement, neglecting to account for their own longterm credibility

  30. Links 17/8/2019: Wine 4.14 is Out, Debian Celebrates 26 years

    Links for the day

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts