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05.27.07

Could Novell’s Disclosure Have Led to More Backlash and Harm Than Calm? (Updated)

Posted in Deals, Dell, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, Ubuntu, Windows at 9:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shane has already taken a preliminary look at Novell’s recent disclosure. Next week we shall find out a lot more as prominent people analyse the text and will report to the press. Here are some early reactions. The first comes from the Wine team.

More than a few people have been angered by Novell’s patent indemnification agreement with Microsoft. If you’re looking a bunch of really exciting fun, you can find a redacted version of the entire agreement filed with the SEC. There’s two nice bits in there about Wine. The first pretty much means Novell won’t ever ship Wine (someone please correct me if I’m wrong because it’s late and I might have pieced it together wrong.) Why?

Remember that Dell joined the Microsoft/Novell deal. A couple of weeks ago, just shortly after this deal, Mark Shuttleworth announced that Wine would not be included in Dell’s Ubuntu PCs. A while later it turned out that proprietary multimedia codecs would not be included either. Is it a coincidence, a conspiracy, or simply a logical decision? Here is the reaction of a man who is disappointed due to these recent developments.

Dell’s deliberately limited Ubuntu Linux offerings show cowardice in the face of Microsoft’s displeasure, and telegraphs to the casual shopper that Linux is a very cheap (as in quality) second to Windows in terms of breadth and depth of hardware support, when it most certainly is not.

Also see the following perspective:

The agreement enshrines the pretzel-like position Novell has been forced to adopt because it appears to be paying Microsoft not to sue its customers for using Linux.

[...]

It looks as if the agreement makes provision for the possibility that Novell will get acquired — it passes through — unless, it appears, it goes to a private equity buy-out firm or a company that gets less than 10% of revenues from hardware and software. There are also safety nets for product spin-offs.

What a mouthful. More speculations are certainly yet to come our way. Here are the reactions that Novell had to face in last week’s OSBC.

Corbet of LWN.net, however, accused Novell of enabling Microsoft’s bad behavior. “Novell is paying Microsoft a per unit fee (on sales of SUSE Linux). If there’s not a patent issue, what are you paying for?” he asked.

[...]

The issue of patents has been front and center at OSBC… and audience members expressed disappointment at the mixed signals coming from Microsoft over possible litigation, and what many perceived as a lack of honest cooperation between Microsoft and the open source community. “I’m not afraid of Novell coming after me like I’m afraid of Microsoft coming after me,” said Jon Stumpf, Senior Vice President of Engineering at AIG. “I don’t need a new (collaboration) deal on virtualization or ODF. I need cooperation on standards.” At other times, audience members responded with outright derision at efforts to smooth over the disagreements that have followed from the partnership.

Here is another eye-opening article:

Under the terms of the agreements, Microsoft will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on licensing fees and sales and marketing costs over five years, including $240 million for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription certificates. For its part, Novell has agreed to pay Microsoft a percentage of revenue from open-source products.

Novell has chosen to betray the supplier in order to please a few customers (if any at all). The wrath of those who were harmed (developers and Linux peers) is going to harm Novell. What goes around comes around.

Update: a video from OSBC was published yesterday. Here it is, in case someone is interested.

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6 Comments

  1. Shane Coyle said,

    May 27, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Gravatar

    MS is afraid of Wine because it allows folks to run their Office toolset without paying for Windows, which are their only 2 profitable products. Part of this deal is about virtualization, and this legal posturing is one of MS’ way of keeping Windows relevant and actually installed out there.

  2. akf said,

    May 27, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Gravatar

    Letter to the FOSS comunity regarding Microsoft’s patent promise:
    http://www.softwarefreedom.org/perspectives/2006/ms-patent-promise/
    It is an old article, but it is interesting to read it again…

    BTW. the SFLC had already access to the documents in 2006.

  3. shane said,

    May 27, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Gravatar

    It is true,the patent pledge is worthless to open source developers and even to Novell customers, but is priceless to Microsoft.

  4. Marcus Meissner said,

    May 27, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Gravatar

    Very strange that we are still shipping Wine woth openSUSE 10.2 you know.

    Ciao, Marcus (Package Maintainer of Wine).

    Oh… and I would _really_ suggest you look at OpenOffice_org mentioned in
    the same list … which we ship for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10.

    You assume to understand this patent agreement, …. Well, I am not a lawyer and I do not and I would not even try without getting some legal help.

    You should stop your negative reporting and “assuming” etc etc etc

    Ciao, Marcus

  5. Shane Coyle said,

    May 27, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Gravatar

    I assume you know that Novell has agreed to pay MS per-unit royalties to ship something(s) in SLES/SLED? I am not assuming that. So, the fact that Novell ships OOO in SLED is not a valid defense, perhaps they are paying for a patent license (however denominated) for OOO, or Samba, or _____.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 27, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Gravatar

    > Very strange that we are still shipping Wine
    > worth openSUSE 10.2 you know.

    They also seem to be taking their Linux desktop in uncomfortable directions, IMHO. See: http://boycottnovell.com/2007/04/23/mono-strategy/

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