Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's Strategy: Unite and Conquer?

In an excellent analysis of the Microsoft-Novell deal, Michael Swaine delves into the legal, technological and contextual aspects of the agreement and engages in some speculation as to the motives and overall winners and losers in the long term.

Then there's the PR angle. In Microsoft's case, PR includes trying to look virtuous to the EU courts. Look, Microsoft can say, at how we play nice with competing platforms like Novell's SUSE. Here's a tin-foil-hat theory: Microsoft can't compete against a movement, Ballmer has acknowledged. It can definitely compete against a company. So isn't it likely that this question has come up at Microsoft: Can't we somehow turn this Linux movement into a company that we can compete with?

If that question has arisen, a clear understanding of open source would suggest that the answer should be "no"; but suppose the question was asked and the answer came back "maybe." What steps would Microsoft take to effectively turn the Linux movement into a company? Would it promote one Linux supplier by giving it money and credibility, and threatening to sue the users of other Linux suppliers' software in the hope of whittling the movement down to that one company? And if the pool of sources for Linux actually did dwindle down to just Novell, does anyone doubt that Microsoft could put it out of business in a year? Tin-foil-hat off.

Among other things, the article questions what exactly Novell is paying royalty payments for, since they assert there is no infringing "IP" in their Linux offerings.

But instead, the reaction to the announcement was all about something that Microsoft was giving to Novell, or rather to Novell customers, under the agreement: A promise not to sue them for intellectual property infringement.

Which is something that Novell's SUSE Linux users didn't realize they needed until Microsoft pointed it out to them. Something that, some would say, they still don't need. It's not good journalism to attribute opinions to unspecified parties as I just did with the word "some," so I'll change it: Something that, Novell would say, they still don't need. If it sounds odd to you that one of the partners to the deal is denying that one of the key elements of the deal has any value, you're right. It is odd.

The article is fairly comprehensive, and serves as a pretty good recap of events to date, including the Oracle Linux Announcement, Ballmer's FUD at PASS, and the parties agreeing to disagree over the significance of the deal. Head on over to Dr. Dobbs Portal for the full story, it's a good read.

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