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03.24.08

How Novell Fell in Love With Its Hitman

Posted in America, Antitrust, Bill Gates, Corel, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites at 12:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“There are people who don’t like capitalism, and people who don’t like PCs. But there’s no-one who likes the PC who doesn’t like Microsoft.”

Bill Gates

There are corny old stories about people falling in love with their foes or becoming fascinated with stalkers (e.g. James Bond and “the spy who loved me”). In some cases, people develop an obsession for those whom they hate or those hate them. Novell seems to validate some of these bizarre phenomena. Novell, which has a history of being abused and betrayed repeatedly by Microsoft, is quickly getting close to Microsoft. How close? Far more than most observers even care to realise.

“Microsoft uses Novell as a bridge.”BrainShare 2008 may be over by now, but some of the reports stand out because they demonstrate the relationship Microsoft tries to establish not only with Novell, but also with other FOSS and/or Linux companies, by association. Microsoft uses Novell as a bridge. Would you expect Microsoft to stay away from BrainShare (as in, not stick its finger in that pie)? That would be wishful thinking.

Perhaps the biggest shock walking into the exhibitors room at Novell Inc.’s annual conference last week in Salt Lake City was the very prominent booth of Microsoft, emblazoned with the slogan “Interoperability.”

By “Interoperability” they actually mean "Taxoperability". The intent here is to replace opens standards with a monster that enables Microsoft to charge for GNU/Linux, per copy.

In an interview, Ron Hovsepian was asked about the relationship with Microsoft. Watch his response.

At Novell Inc.’s BrainShare 2008 user and partner conference here earlier this week, CEO Ron Hovsepian spoke with Computerworld about a range of issues, including a skills realignment in his company that resulted in 1,000 of his 4,000 employees being replaced in the past year.

[...]

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 5 is “meets expectations,” how would you rate your satisfaction with your interoperability agreement with Microsoft? To date, I would put it at an 8 or a 9. The logic would be, it’s worked out for our customers, it’s worked out technically. The interoperability differentiation has resonated incredibly in the market. And it’s been the proper thing for the company financially as well.

It comes just a couple of days after this antitrust lawsuit made headlines. Visual reminder below.

Jim Allchin on Novell

Another set of fines could — if not should — be expected. Here are some more gory details.

Wacko conspiracy and sour grapes? Not really, as there’s a smoking gun [PDF] in this case, a 1994 email from Bill Gates that outlines just such a plan to withhold the technical information from competitors, noting that their products were superior to Microsoft’s and that, well, cheating was the only way that Microsoft could compete.

Slated.org has the E-mails archived as plain text. The Webmaster brought us an excerpt from it:

Its time for a decision on iShellBrowser

[...]

I have decided that we should not publish these extensions. We should
wait until we have a way to do a high level of integration that will
give Office a real advantage.

[...]

We can’t compete with Lotus and Wordperfect/Novell without this. Our
goal is to have Office’96 sell better because of the shell integration work

Now that Novell and Microsoft are close, one has to wonder about chances of mercy, prospects of pardon. Either way, it would be unfortunate to see Microsoft handing in another financial lifeline to Novell in the form of a fine, assuming it loses the case. It is in Microsoft’s interest to keep Novell going at the expense of other Linux vendors, whose products are not Microsoft cash cows, owing to illegitimacy of software patents and bogus claims. It’s a win-win situation for Microsoft and Novell. They could have money exchanged among themselves, shared for common objectives. without prudent scrutiny.

By the time that e-mail was written in late 1994, WordPerfect was already in trouble. It’s clear, though, that Microsoft had no problem in using its operating system monopoly to kick WordPerfect while it was down. Whether this case goes all the way through trial or is settled out of court, I have a feeling that Microsoft will end up paying for its role in WordPerfect’s downfall.

Matt Asay, bearing OOXML in mind, wrote about the irony in this situation.

“Pearly Gates and Em-Ballmer
One promises you heaven and the other prepares you for the grave. “

Ray Noorda (Novell’s CEO at the time)

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