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03.02.09

Novell Committed to Microsoft Technologies, But Not so Much to Free Desktop (RadeonHD)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Red Hat at 2:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Novell lays off Luc Verhaegen (of the RadeonHD driver team), thus putting the whole project in jeopardy

Novell’s .NET focus is a sensitive subject that we’ve recently covered in [1, 2]. In short, there are signs which suggest that Novell is deemphasising core parts of the OpenSUSE project while investing resources in projects that put more Microsoft technologies inside GNU/Linux, which is wrong.

As another sign that something is amiss, Novell is letting some of its most important Linux projects drift away. At the beginning of the year we wrote about problems with the RadeonHD project, which had almost been passed to Red Hat. Now that there are layoffs affecting about 20% of OpenSUSE’s staff [1, 2], the RadeonHD driver is being negatively impacted and it’s at very serious risk because of AMD’s response (details to come shortly). The RadeonHD team has just lost its key developer Luc Verhaegen, as revealed by Michael over at Phoronix.

Luc Verhaegen has been let go from Novell. As was publicly announced this morning in the form of a Git commit, Luc Verhaegen is no longer working for Novell. While he was one of the few X developers working on OpenSuSE and also responsible for the VIA Unichrome driver, Novell decide to eliminate him. Due to limited access now to ATI hardware, it’s unlikely that we will see any future work from him in the RadeonHD driver.

Since Red Hat is in favour xf86-video-ati it is possible that the RadeonHD driver will die (developers must gain access to hardware and documentation with NDAs). Novell is definitely not helping much anymore.

Microsoft (MSFT) is hovering at about $15.xx and Novell (NOVL) is almost down to $2.xx in today’s trading. They are two companies in very serious trouble, so priorities are changing.

Many people agree that Novell needs to get rid of Microsoft and ensure its own future survival, not Microsoft’s. At the moment, Novell is employing many people (or sponsoring projects) that are polluting all GNU/Linux distributions using Microsoft’s co-called ‘IP’, which as the TomTom case teaches, must be avoided. Considering the fact that Microsoft is suing companies for FAT (despite promises not to sue), where is the trust?

Sam Dean wrote about Novell’s poor results [1, 2, 3]. Here is the core of the suggestions:

Novell’s relationship with Microsoft is unusual in the sense that the company is reliant on Microsoft to assist with Linux-related deals, but is not unique in terms of Microsoft’s standard business practices. Huge companies like Dell and Intel–and many more–have been reliant on Microsoft for years in helping to get big deals, co-marketing, and much more. It’s very much the Microsoft way to join forces with strategic technology partners, including infusing cash into marketing efforts from other tech companies. However, Dell and Intel have huge, diversifed lines of proprietary technologies delivering consistent cash flows.

I agree with Larry Dignan and Matt Asay that Novell can’t afford to be so reliant on Microsoft going forward. Novell reported Linux invoicing down 42 percent at $23 million.

[...]

Novell’s best course of action is to become less reliant on Microsoft with its Linux business, and to steady its dependency on erratic striking of new deals. This isn’t a good economy for new deals.

It’s not surprising that Novell lacks a clear direction because Novell is dependent on Microsoft, so it must suck up to Ballmer in exchange for vouchers and other opportunities. This means that Novell becomes a reflection of Microsoft’s interests. From a Microsoft competitor it has turned into an ally.

Don’t help Novell elevate itself because doing so strengthens Microsoft by: 1) legitimising software patents; 2) making GNU/Linux more Microsoft dependent; 3) subverting standards (de facto or otherwise) and 4) making GNU/Linux more expensive and thus less competitive.

Say No to Novell

“…Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”

Larry Goldfarb, Baystar, key investor in SCO

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14 Comments

  1. David said,

    March 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Gravatar

    Hello, my name is David Siegel, and I am the founder and maintainer of GNOME Do. GNOME Do is not financed by Novell or Microsoft — please correct the inaccuracy in your article.

    Thank you,
    David

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Gravatar

    It was a quote, not a statement that I made, and I suspected it was fallacious but wasn’t sure. I’ll remove that quote.

  3. JohnD said,

    March 2, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Gravatar

    So you post things that you think might be false? What’s the point?
    While we’re at it, what’s the point of this site? According to your posts Novell is doomed and nothing can save it now. So do you feel the need to drive more nails in the coffin? Pour salt in the wounds?

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 2, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Gravatar

    So you post things that you think might be false? What’s the point?

    I didn’t know that it was wrong. Shamar makes good comments in LT, so I thought he was right. It is actually true that the Mono part which GNOME Do depends on is funded by Microsoft/Novell.

    Mono dependency is a dangerous thing.

  5. JohnD said,

    March 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Gravatar

    But in the above post you state that you “suspected” it was false. So you either thought the post may have been incorrect, or you didn’t.
    Pick one.

  6. JohnD said,

    March 2, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Gravatar

    Also there’s this link:
    http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/07/09/05/1328225.shtml
    Perhaps this is why Novell is cutting development? Would it make sense for a cash strapped company to duplicate development efforts of the hardware manufacturer?
    If you really want to make points that stick – you need to research both sides of the story.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 2, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Gravatar

    There’s more news coming from AMD (maybe tonight). It’s not good.

  8. Dan O'Brian said,

    March 2, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Gravatar

    Just the other week you wanted to kick Novell out of the Linux community, now that they are pulling out of developing some things, you attack them for what you wanted them to do the other week?

    They just can’t make you happy even if they take your advice, huh?

  9. JohnD said,

    March 3, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Gravatar

    I agree Dan.
    AMD has some self inflicted wounds and the economy is not helping. I find it interesting that you hammer on Novell’s sliding stock price and workforce cuts even though every other company out there (even ones in far better shape ie MS) are doing the same thing.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 3, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Gravatar

    Novell CFO: “We incurred 8 million of restructuring charges in the first quarter most of which represented a continuation of our 2008 restructuring activities and we expect to incur 5 million to 7 million of charges in the second quarter. We are still evaluating what additional charges we may incur in the second half of fiscal 2009. Total headcount at the end of the quarter was approximately 3900, down from approximately 4000 in the prior quarter. [...] We are still evaluating what additional charges we may incur in the second half of fiscal 2009. [...] This quarter’s cash flow included a $25 million payment from Microsoft for the first tranche of our extended agreement.”

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/123039-novell-inc-f1q09-qtr-end-01-31-09-earnings-call-transcript?source=yahoo&page=8

    Novell depends on Microsoft and there are layoffs coming. If you don’t know why the Microsoft dependency is bad, then you have not been paying attention.

  11. JohnD said,

    March 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Gravatar

    Novell depends on all of it’s customers and I have been paying attention.
    “For the quarter, Novell reported net revenue of $215 million.”
    The little tidbit you left out – the MS payment was a little more than 10% of it’s total revenue for the quarter – by extension just under 90% of it’s money came from someplace else.
    You are so focused on finding all the potential bad things about Novell that you’re missing the biggest opportunity. MS is most likely using the deal to try to screw the community, but by doing so they’ve left themselves open. MS has money and mind share right now due to it’s monopoly. The only way you can change the money and mind share is by eroding it’s market share. The only way to do that is to get people to switch to something else. You can use the Novell/MS deal like sledgehammer, not against Novell, but against MS.
    Tomtom is FUD plain and simple, and sadly it will work given the stupidity of most corporate managers. I’ll bet that MS will offer to settle out of court in the interest of saving money (but really trying to gain the appearance of victory)- or they will drag it out forever. Either way the damage will be done. If you use Novell products (at least in part) you take away the MS bite. For example: Use SLES and mono to serve up content for applications to non-sled clients? That would make for one interesting legal argument wouldn’t it?

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 3, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Gravatar

    How much do you know about, e.g. Mono and patents?

  13. JohnD said,

    March 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Gravatar

    I would ask you this, if Novell is just an MS shill these days – why is there still a pending lawsuit between them?
    http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=20041115070558892#ref00
    How much I know or don’t know is not at issue here. What’s at issue is how to help Linux succeed in the market.
    Novell is the only big name company with a long term rep that’s truly supporting Linux from stem to stern. They’ve dumped Windows and Office from as many machines as they can, and documented how they did it along with issues and solutions for the whole world to see. Novell realizes that if there are no popular applications running on Linux – they will fail. It happened to Netware, OS/2, etc. MS will sing that song long and loud. Mono can be used as a stepping stone to be used against MS. Once the issue of patents and Linux infringement on MS IP is put to rest – then the community can write software to convert from Mono to something else. You slam both sides and divide the community at the same time. That’s the fast track to a MS win.

  14. bill said,

    March 4, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Gravatar

    “Roy Schestowitz said,
    March 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm
    It was a quote, not a statement that I made, and I suspected it was fallacious but wasn’t sure. I’ll remove that quote.”

    I think this statement says it all – you’re a shill, truth doesn’t matter nor does journalistic integrety. You have an opinion and you will write whatever you want to support that opinion.

    Have you ever considered what would happen to Linux if your wish for Novell to fail actually happened – who would pick up the developmental and financial support it provides? Maybe it’s not Novell you wish to fail but Linux and Novell is the crack in the dyke you’ve decided to exploit so that you could fracture the community and and weaken Linux’s ongoing development.

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