08.19.07

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Sun, Red Hat, Microsoft, and Novell: Whose Side is IBM on?

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Red Hat, SUN, UNIX at 12:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Conflict of interests is something which IBM is well aware of due to its enormous scale. When it comes to Linux and UNIX, there is a conflict. Red Hat and Novell is another. IBM needs to play with Microsoft too, so there is a lot one needs to balance. But what is IBM’s take on the Novell/Microsoft deal? Here is one disconcerting take on the issue:

First, IBM and Novell announced a new partnership on the desktop and in relation to IBM’s Websphere Community Edition. Aimed directly at Red Hat’s JBoss Application Server, this move is fascinating in that it represents the prodigal son returning to the IBM fold, apparently with complete foregiveness for entering that deal with Microsoft. There is no question that this move by IBM will challenge Red Hat/JBoss. And as for the great offense that IBM took with Novell for cozying up to Microsoft, all you have to do is look at the next event.

The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council sent out their invite for upcoming events this week. One of those events is entitled: Microsoft & Novell – Building Bridges. On its face you would expect this to be one of those Microsoft – Novell events trying to justify and promote their relationship. However, this invitation was more interesting given the session sponsors: IBM and the Choate law firm. (Sorry, that little tidbit is not available on the MTLC website; it was included in the e-mail invitation.) So here we have IBM sponsoring a session that attempts to rationalize and buy into the theory that the Microsoft – Novell deal is actually promoting interoperability.

I am pretty certain this anonymised item comes from Mark Webbink (Red Hat). Let us remember that IBM assisted SuSE’s acquisition by Novel. IBM also gave its approval and endorsement on the day Novell signed the deal with Microsoft. So what can be concluded? IBM also talks to Sun, with which it shares document format ambitions. Meanwhile, Novell antagonises that with vocal OOXML supporters such as Miguel de Icaza.

IBM still supports Sun and OpenOffice.org, which is not competing too directly with Lotus. With ODF support ‘out of the box’, they help each other and the recent Solaris-OEM deal speaks volumes.

It seems likely that one of IBM’s main executives will attend an OpenOffice.org event, based on yesterday’s links dump from his blog. While he lobbies for elimination of OOXML as a standard, Novell goes the other way. Whose side is IBM on and how are things being balanced? Are different departments holding a different view on these matters? What will happen when/if Sun becomes more like Novell and Red Hat?

Jonathan Schwartz has done a great favor for his own customers, and may increase software revenues down the road. But all his spin is really lipstick on a pig.

In many ways, Sun is becoming Red Hat.

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4 Comments

  1. cb400f said,

    August 19, 2007 at 2:50 am

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    IBM is on IBM’s side – which means they want multiple succesful GNU/Linux vendors to talk to. Perhaps they’ve had bad experiences in the past with spawning de facto monopolists in the OS area by betting on one horse?

    And please, Novell does not go the other way. ODF is the default format in Novell’s products, they’re ODF-alliance members. You’ll never hear them recommend another format.

    They’re just trying to have their cake and eat it too. Someone offerered them a ton of money to ship a crappy plugin – that is _not_ the same as pushing OOXML. They’re just not fighting it as hard as some of us would have liked – but they’re damn sure not promoting it.

    Surely you’re aware that upstream OOo will have OOXML-support too.. albeit read-only.

  2. Stephen said,

    August 20, 2007 at 3:17 am

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    I still don’t understand the association with Miguel and OOXML. In everything that I’ve read he’s merely stating that Microsoft have desktop application dominance, therefore OOXML will have dominance, and therefore OpenOffice.org must support OOXML if it’s to remain viable. This just seems plain logical.

    Also, Sun currently ship OOXML support in StarOffice, so your analyses may need to broaden lest you’re seen to be stalking Miguel.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 20, 2007 at 3:31 am

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    Stephen, Miguel is being criticised not for the reason that you mention above, but for the fact that he defends OOXML by stating that it is suitable for standadisation (it is not, as panels worldwide seem to consistently agree despite/before the bullying, stacking, and manipulation). The ISO’s verdict is not related to how ubiquitous OOXML will become. This is a case of endorsing or rejecting a patent-encumbered, incomplete, buggy, and O/S-dependent formats at a formal level.

    For OOXML proponents, It is a case of suggesting that OOXML would be fine as an international standard. We already have one which does not suffer from the many deficiencies which make it unsuitable.

  4. Skeptic said,

    August 20, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Gravatar

    de Icaza obviously has a soapbox, but he has failed to use it to help clear Novell. What he seems to miss is that given the controversial patent deal with Microsoft, Novell should try to avoid even the _perception_ of impropriety. Yet in the face of obvious widespread suspicion of a conflict of interest on the part of Novell toward its closer relationship with Microsoft, de Icaza expends energy on repeating Microsoft propaganda that only increases the suspicion toward Novell. He would do better to just shut up about it. Although he is rightly skeptical about some flimsy claims against OOXML, he _assumes_ that this is where his skepticism is best directed and not instead toward Microsoft.

    It seems he is in denial about Microsoft’s track record. This is not to say that he should only be repeating insults toward Microsoft, but that he should realize that in the context of some of the outrageous tactics that Microsoft has used in the approval process that has been documented here and elsewhere, that he should focus his skepticism on Microsoft. At least he and his employer would gain more credibility, but given the conflict of interest, no one should hold their breath on this.

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