Summary: SUSE development continues in Taiwan after layoffs in Germany
A YEAR AGO, Ron Hovsepian spoke about moving to the east. According to Reuters, he was bound to spend approximately $100 million on these moves. It obviously requires some great long-term savings to be able to reward him with a huge bonus [1, 2] despite a huge slump.
Earlier this year, Novell fired many of its German employees (about 1 in 5 among the SUSE developers*), but the company seems to be expanding in places where labour is inexpensive, which means it’s likely a case of location-shifting. Novell is merely ‘pulling an IBM’ — a routine where expensive (‘pampered’) employees get axed and then quietly, some months later, the company hires replacements in part of the world where labour if cheaper. Intel and Microsoft do this as well [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], sometimes using the notorious "Abramoff Visa" which they brought about.
There is an article about Novell’s smooth operation in German and many others in English too. Quoting from some of the ‘bigger’ sites:
i. Novell sets up Taiwan netbook Linux R&D team
US-based Novell has established an R&D team specifically for developing Linux operating systems for use in netbook PCs, according to Novell Taiwan.
ii. Novell sets up dedicated Linux netbook team
Novell has set up a dedicated research & development team to work on the development of Linux operating systems on netbooks. Novell Taiwan claims that the team will work in conjunction with Taiwanese netbook manufacturers to develop driver programs and design interfaces to support their hardware.
iii. Novell is reportedly setting up a dedicated team to develop Linux OS for netbooks.
Netbook Choice has reported Novell Taiwan claimed that the team will work in conjunction with Taiwanese netbook manufacturers to develop driver programs and design interfaces to support their hardware.
iv. Microsoft allies seek to undermine Windows in Netbooks, mobile
Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s primary partner for Linux interoperability, Novell, is setting up a Taiwanese R&D team to focus on improving Linux for Netbooks.
If Microsoft can’t count on Novell and its PC manufacturer partners to play nicely, who can it trust?
So, despite the fact that Novell said it would not port SUSE to ARM, it sure seems interested in sub-notebooks in general. But why can’t it allocate the original SUSE developers to handle this work? Are they less qualified for the job? Or just more expensive? █
* More layoffs will come soon, based on the earnings call (but it’s not as though Novell neglects SUSE).
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Summary: Troy Richardson and Steve Erdman go somewhere else, probably after the deal with Microsoft
SOME PRETTY MAJOR shifts appear to have gone below the radar of the press. Xiocom gets filled with former Novell employees this month (or last month), according to this press release. Steve Erdman is becoming a president, having previously served as a Vice President at Novell.
Xiocom Wireless, Inc., a global provider of integrated wireless broadband solutions, today announced that it has appointed Steve Erdman as President, reporting to Troy Richardson, Chief Executive Officer. In his new role, Mr. Erdman will oversee day-to-day operations and business and market development. “Steve is an outstanding executive with a unique blend of skills, from global strategy, market development, mergers and acquisitions, and operations,” noted Troy Richardson, Chief Executive Officer. “His ability to develop partnerships across the globe has enabled Xiocom to deliver on our vision. He brings a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience into this leadership role.”
Steve has 22 years of technology sales, marketing and global business management experience. He was most recently with Novell as the Vice President/General Manager of Channels and Alliances, where he grew their partner business and oversaw the Novell Global Routes to Market strategy.
The new CEO of Xiocom will also be a former Novell Vice President. This comes to light through another press release from the company.
Xiocom Wireless, Inc., a global provider of integrated wireless broadband solutions, announced the appointment of Troy Richardson as Chief Executive Officer today. Troy Richardson succeeds Jeff Spence, who has served in the position since July 2007.
During his distinguished 22-year career in technology sales management and organizational leadership, Mr. Richardson most recently served as the President of the Americas for Novell. As Vice President for the Americas for NCR, he headed up an $800MM division. During his 16-year tenure with IBM he held a number of executive roles including Vice President Sales for the enterprise software group. He holds a degree in Business Management from Eastern Illinois University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
This is just the latest pair among many more that we covered. Novell is not in good shape. █
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Spring is in the air
Summary: Few bits and pieces from the OpenSUSE universe
It has been an exceptionally quiet week for the OpenSUSE project. This can be summarised with one amateur review and another which mentions an experience with OpenSUSE 11.1.
So, if you have an old PC and want to bring it up to date, quickly, inexpensively (free) then it’s time to look at Linux, particularly these two distros. Pop in the CD, reboot and let the installer do its magic. When it’s all done, spend a bit of time exploring. Soon you’ll find things are familiar. Bravo to Novell and Ubunto for these fine distributions!
[O]ther the last weekend I’ve been able to try out a new Linux distribution, opensuse 11.1. I thought I’d try it out as after starting up my laptop saturday morning I had a sudden partition not found error. So after downloading and going through the LiveCD installation process which is great & easy to use like Ubuntu’s or the many others out there everything was setup. I copied over the files from backups and was all set (or so I thought).
There were some OpenSUSE HOWTOs posted, especially in SUSE-oriented sites and there is more at ZDnet where Zonker speaks about his experiences as community manager for OpenSUSE in some recent conferences. Other than that, the best bet for news is the OpenSUSE Wiki.
In this Week:
* Update on iFolder
* openSUSE Weekly News @ RadioTux.de
* People of openSUSE is back
* OpenSource meet Business
* My GIMP Tutorial and Resource
Following the release of SLED and SLES 11, there was a little more news from that side of the project (product). █
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Summary: A detailed overview of TomTom/FAT highlights and events which occurred in the past week
THE TOMTOM CASE was a very significant turning point and milestone that can affect judgment in the development of GNU/Linux.
“The story may be over for TomTom, but not for FAT, which will probably be defended (hopefully cleared) by entities other than TomTom.”As a quick recap, TomTom was sued by Microsoft , TomTom counter sued, and it also joined the OIN. Eventually, however, TomTom disappointed by settling rather than challenging the patents and this has impact on projects like Mono and MonoDevelop.
Here is a summary of the last few developments, which indicate that this case if not over yet. The story may be over for TomTom, but not for FAT, which will probably be defended (hopefully cleared) by entities other than TomTom.
Here is Microsoft’s announcement of the settlement, which arrived early in the week. Microsoft tells its shareholder a self-congratulatory story.
For future reference, we have gathered a lot of reports which we bind together as follows.
Ryan Paul at Ars Technica: Microsoft and TomTom settle patent dispute
Todd Bishop at TechFlash: TomTom will remove some Linux features in Microsoft settlement
Elizabeth Montalbano at IDG: TomTom to Pay Microsoft to Settle Patent Cases
Glyn Moody at IDG: Bad News: Microsoft Gets its Way with TomTom
In other words, Microsoft gets to say that TomTom acknowledges Microsoft’s file management patents – the ones that touch Linux. This means that Microsoft can now go around to other embedded systems manufacturers and say: “Well, TomTom settled, so they obviously thought the patents were good – wouldn’t it be wise to pay up too?”
This is really starting to play out just as I feared in the beginning. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft proceeds now: whether it openly threatens others using Linux, or does everything discreetly. I predict the latter, but the effect on Linux in this market will still be chilling.
Mike Masnick at DechDirt: TomTom Realizes Microsoft’s Pointy Patent Stick Is Too Sharp… Settles Patent Dispute
What’s still unclear, however, is how this settlement deals with the questions that were raised over GPL’d software used by TomTom. As we noted, the GPL license that covers components of TomTom’s software forbid it from putting any restrictions on the distribution of the software. A deal with Microsoft could violate the GPL and cause trouble for TomTom down the road. Perhaps the company is betting that any legal battle on that front would be cheaper than fighting Microsoft’s patent lawyers in court.
Dana Blankenhorn mat ZDNet: TomTom surrenders to Microsoft in patent fight
The Software Freedom Law Center has not yet hired a patent attorney, a job search it began online March 4, and the Open Innovation Network has not gone beyond its acceptance of TomTom’s membership, alongside that of Novell, released March 23.
This was mentioned along the way in many other Web sites.
No clarity on validity of Microsoft’s claims against TomTom: Red Hat has issued a short statement in response to yesterday’s news that TomTom and Microsoft had settled their patent scrap out of court, in which the company says that “without a judicial decision, the settlement does not demonstrate that the claims of Microsoft were valid”
Mary Jo Foley correctly points out that TomTom at least signed the settlement in good faith.
Bottom line: TomTom — unlike some other companies developing around Linux which have signed patent-licensing deals with Microsoft — isn’t licensing Microsoft’s FAT as part of this agreement.
Richi Jennings presents this summary of coverages and there is also an April Fool’s joke about TomTom buying Microsoft. Additional coverage can be found in
The Microsoft Spinners
As always, there are Microsoft 'moles' in the press and they are telling a different story in order to promote the company that they support (or indirectly pays their wages). Here is the unofficial ‘Microsoft statement’ from its PR person in CNET (Ina Fried) and here is Microsoft fan Joe Wilcox, who characterises this as a win for Microsoft. Microsoft fan Richard Waters characterises this as a win for Microsoft as well (despite the fact that both sides sued and then settled) and the Microsoft-affiliated press spins this too (and makes factual mistakes, by its own admission).
GPS navigation specialist TomTom can breathe a sigh of relief today and wipe the beads of cold sweat off its anthropomorphic forehead. The company has settled the patent infringement claims Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) brought against it last month.
In what looks like a total victory for Microsoft, TomTom will send license fees to the software giant and stop using a couple of vital file system patents. “When addressing IP infringement issues, there are two possible paths: securing patent coverage or not using the technology at issue,” said Microsoft’s licensing head Horacio Gutierrez in a written statement. “Through this agreement, TomTom is choosing a combination of both paths.”
It’s Just Round One
We wrote about the settlement with TomTom some days ago, but as the SFLC stresses, this is “Settled, But Not Over Yet.”
Today’s settlement between Microsoft and TomTom ends one phase of the community’s response to Microsoft patent aggression, and begins another. On the basis of the information we have, we have no reason to believe that TomTom’s settlement agreement with Microsoft violates the license on the kernel, Linux, or any other free software used in its products. The settlement neither implies that Microsoft patents are valid nor that TomTom’s products were or are infringing.
In sight of the settlement, Groklaw too decided to emphasise that this is not over.
There’s more. Red Hat’s legal eagles have put out a statement too, the meat of which is this: “Red Hat was not a party to this case. Even so, without a judicial decision, the settlement does not demonstrate that the claims of Microsoft were valid.”
In fact, SFLC says they believe they are invalid:
The FAT filesystem patents on which Microsoft sued are now and have always been invalid patents in our professional opinion. SFLC remains committed to protecting the interests of our clients and the community. We will act forcefully to protect all users and developers of free software against further intimidation or interference from these patents.
SFLC, working with the Open Invention Network and the Linux Foundation, is pleased to participate in a coordinated, carefully graduated response on behalf of all the community’s members to ongoing anti-competitive Microsoft conduct. We believe in strength through unity, and we think our community’s unity in the face of these threats has helped to bring about Microsoft’s quick settlement on all issues with TomTom.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols phrased it a little differently, arguing that the “Microsoft-TomTom settlement is end of a battle, not the war.”
The Software Freedom Law Center, an organization focused on protecting open-source and free software, said in a statement that the “settlement between Microsoft and TomTom ends one phase of the community’s response to Microsoft patent aggression and begins another. On the basis of the information we have, we have no reason to believe that TomTom’s settlement agreement with Microsoft violates the license on the kernel, Linux, or any other free software used in its products. The settlement neither implies that Microsoft patents are valid nor that TomTom’s products were or are infringing.”
Matt Asay, a lawyer by training (but less so by profession), is expecting a “round two.”
Red Hat, for its part, declares that “without a judicial decision, the settlement does not demonstrate that the claims of Microsoft were valid.” And Pamela Jones of Groklaw, a highly influential open-source legal blog, deprecates Microsoft’s claims (“What? You thought Microsoft’s spin on things was always gospel?”), citing the Software Freedom Law Center’s commitment to sticking up for Linux, even if TomTom quickly caved.
Linux Pro Magazine tells a similar story and quite consistently they all cite the SFLC. We are aware that Eben Moglen had to cancel or postpone his journey to Iceland because the SFLC had gotten terribly busy (due to the TomTom case).
Groklaw has some of the corresponding filings.
Two notices of dismissal have been filed with the courts — Microsoft’s in Washington State, and TomTom’s in Virginia, each dismissed without prejudice, ending both patent litigations. “Without prejudice” means that either could ramp it up and do this some more in the future, should circumstances arise that made it necessary. But in most cases, it means the litigation, or whatever, is over. Remember when SCO withdrew “without prejudice” its emergency motion to sell its assets, or Novell’s assets, depending on your point of view? We never saw that again, did we, despite it being withdrawn “without prejudice”.
Who Won This Round Anyway?
Some people have interpreted the settlement almost as though it was Microsoft’s loss. Could Microsoft have backed off because of bad publicity and the involvement of the OIN?
Microsoft appears to have backed off from a wider confrontation with the free and open source software community by settling the alleged patent infringement case that it filed against GPS device maker TomTom last month.
It is a measure of Microsoft’s diminishing clout in the technology industry that it has had to settle with a tiny company like TomTom. In earlier years, it would have gone for the throat and ensured that an opponent as small as TomTom was shut down.
This will surely encourage smaller software makers and other companies which are targeted by Redmond to feel that they can make a stand and force a settlement.
Here is the statement from TomTom.
TomTom director of IP strategy and transaction Peter Spours wasn’t quite so verbose. “This agreement puts an end to the litigation between our two companies,” he said in his own canned statement. “It is drafted in a way that ensures TomTom’s full compliance with its obligations under the GPLv2, and thus reaffirms our commitment to the open source community.”
Microsoft sued TomTom in late February in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and before the International Trade Commission (ITC), claiming that the Dutch GPS manufacturer was infringing on eight Redmond patents but refused to sit down for licensing talks.
Regarding TomTom, RBS wrote that the lawsuit has had limited impact on its financials. TomTom did get heaps of good publicity where it was portrayed as a benevolent victim, didn’t it?
TomTom and Microsoft settled their patent litigation affair. We believe the impact of the agreement does not impact TomTom’s financials, but till it is a relief this affair is no longer hanging over the shares.
Settling with Microsoft
Microsoft issued a press release, which effectively makes an end to the patent litigation affair between both companies. The cases have been settled through a patent agreement under which TomTom will ôpayö MSFT for coverage under the eight car navigation and file management system patents in the MSFT case. Meanwhile MSFT receives coverage under the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit. TomTom will seize to use functionality related to two file management system patents (the ôFAT LFN patentsö), in two years time. Financial obligations where not disclosed, however as TomTom did not release a press release themselves and as TomTom will remain compliant under the General Public License Version 2 (which forbids paying royalties or licence fees), we expect the impact of this deal on TomTom’s financials to be limited if not absent.
Asay says that the “TomTom suit suggests Microsoft’s still Microsoft.” This is no compliment and it is bad publicity for the monopolist. It started barking up the wrong tree, so more developers will keep their distance from Windows.
Removing the FAT
Microsoft has a lot to lose here. It jeopardised its position as the de facto standard in many simple storage devices, thereby opening the door to Free file systems which are not as primitive and unreliable as FAT. Jim Zemlin from the Linux Foundation has already scolded Microsoft (which is rare) for its promises that it cannot keep and he also suggested phasing out FAT.
On the TomTom settlement: Microsoft Rolls Back its “Open” Promises
Yesterday, Microsoft announced with a formal press release a settlement of a nuisance patent case filed against a smaller company. Despite Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary, the press release makes it clear that the motivation behind this case was the fear, uncertainty and doubt Microsoft hoped the suit would create around the use of Linux. Linux is, not coincidentally, one of Microsoft’s strongest threats in the server, embedded and desktop computing arenas as evidenced in recent remarks make by its CEO Steve Ballmer.
But the settlement of this suit only proves two things. First, the software patent system in the US needs reform. The need for reform stems from why common functionality like this (which is neither innovative nor novel) was granted a patent in the first place.
Second, it proves that, even apart from this larger issue, this case is a non-event. The technology at the heart of this settlement is the FAT filesystem. As acknowledged by Microsoft in the press release, this file system is easily replaced with multiple technology alternatives. The Linux Foundation is here to assist interested parties in the technical coordination of removing the FAT filesystem from products that make use of it today.
Sam Dean agrees and writes:
I have no doubt that absent federated opposition to Microsoft’s position in this legal battle, and the substantial amount of attention this case got in the mainstream press and the blogosphere, the case would have become much messier. It was all getting to be bad PR for Microsoft. The Linux Foundation, the Open Invention Network, the Software Freedom Law Center and many other organizations are getting better every day at protecting open standards and the rights of Linux project leaders and commercial companies.
This was also covered by Dana Blankenhorn and Ryan Paul, who summarised thusly:
Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin says that Microsoft is hostile to open technologies and that product makers should ditch the company’s patent-encumbered FAT filesystem.
More coverage of this can be found in:
- Linux chief calls for FAT-free Microsoft diet
- Linux geek calls for death of FAT
- Linux foundation chew the FAT. – Gadget news and reviews
- The Linux Foundation: It’s Time for a Microsoft FAT Diet
That concludes this latest chapter in the FAT case. It may be over for TomTom, but not for FAT. The fight is still on as Microsoft is approaching debt [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and looking for new business models that artificially elevate the price of competitors and thus not only generate new revenue streams but also make the competition less attractive. For Microsoft to elect this last strategic resort is a sign of weakness, not strength. Microsoft should have learned from Unisys, as Jason Perlow put it (“Microsoft: Litigate on FAT, and you’ll be the next Unisys”). █
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Summary: A quick update on Linspire and Xandros, which signed patent deals with Microsoft
Linspire is already gone (devoured by Xandros [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]), Turbolinux is virtually unheard of, so Novell/SUSE remains almost the only Ballnux* to be concerned about. The GPLv3 stopped more such patent deals from being signed.
Reports are now suggesting that ASUS turns to Google at the expense of its old affair with Xandros. The simplified graphical interface mastered by ASUS can conveniently be substituted with Google’s.
Last month, Asus revealed that it’s already working on adapting Android for the Eee PC. The project is only ‘proof of concept’ at this stage said Samson Hu, head of Asus’ Eee PC line in an interview with news service Bloomberg.
Market research firm Ovum tips that Android will become the Linux distro of choice for netbooks in 2009, displacing fully featured desktop-class builds such as Ubuntu and Xandros (although Ubuntu is promoting its own tweak known as Ubuntu Netbook Remix to manufacturers).
Does this mark the end of a honeymoon with Xandros?
Xandros seems to have shifted focus to a new project which it calls Presto [1, 2, 3, 4] and this continues to receive some positive coverage this week. The press in Ottawa also mentioned Xandros a few days ago when it wrote about the Spring ’09 Technology Job Fair. “Organized by ITO 2.0, the event drew 55 exhibitors — from Abbott Point of Care, a medical devices firm, and Curtiss-Wright Controls, a military technology company, to Alcatel-Lucent, RIM and Xandros Corp., a computer software development firm,” said the article.
One cannot help wondering: where is CNR?
What has Xandros really made out of Linspire, if anything substantial at all?
Some days ago we discovered that Michael Robertson and Kevin Carmony, former colleagues and managers at Linspire, are still having their vicious cat fight.
This week, Michael Robertson took his next step in trying to suppress my blog and stifle my freedom of speech. Today I received his request for documents in his frivolous Freespire trademark lawsuit against me.
Is this how Linspire wishes to be remembered? Two people ridiculing and suing each other?
It seems safe to deduce that no single company which signed a patent deal with Microsoft truly ended up better off. Not even Novell. █
* Meaning a GNU/Linux distribution that Microsoft makes money from (via software patent deals).
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