Bonum Certa Men Certa

Reminder: Novell and Xandros Are Not Open Source Companies

Free software companies? Surely, that would a joke

As a gentle reminder, Novell insists that it's merely a mixed-source company [1, 2, 3, 4], a concept that even Microsoft is trying to adopt for public relations purposes. It's easy to subscribe to this agenda because opening up 1% of your code (abandonware) and keeping your crown jewels closed is an easy responsibility to live up to. there is also costly dependency which a 'mixed stack' leads to. It's a total 'bastardisation' of the original goals of Free software because to a large degree it involves exploitation of Free software, e.g. the 'Google way' a.k.a. free-riding. with minimal returns compared to the available capacity (Google makes billions of dollars).

When companies like Nokia and Microsoft pretend to be contributing [1, 2], then surely it's nothing like Novell. The truth is that Novell does contribute some code; some fairly valuable code, too.

Nevertheless, why isn't Novell assisting the Utah Open Source Conference? That's where much of Novell is located. The following scoop is an eye-opening change.

...we're going to have the UTOSC 2008 (Utah Open Source Conference, August 28-30, 2008) at the Salt Lake Community College, Redwood Road campus.


And Novell is not one of their sponsors!




I suppose this is not because Novell is not really caring about open source at all, right?



Recall what we've stressed many times over the past week or so (because of Xandros [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]): Novell is the next Corel. It's losing its focus due to the deal with Microsoft.

Looking into the past, consider this new and excellent article:

Where Xandros is sold in a box, Ubuntu is given away free. Where Ubuntu is seen to donate code back to the community, Xandros and Linspire have developed proprietary extensions. Where Ubuntu asks for manufacturers to free their drivers, Xandros and Linspire have signed patent covenants with Microsoft.


Then there's SLED/SLES, and OpenSUSE which you can only use 'safely' provided that you don't make money from it.

The article also contains an interesting history lesson on Corel. Is this Novell's vocation?

Cowpland, and Corel, may have made the classic mistake of realising too early where the market was going, and running before the market could walk. Within months Cowpland was forced to step down from the company he had founded, vowing to devote his time to working with unspecified Linux start-ups. "Personally, I intend to get my hands really dirty with a lot of Linux technology," he told reporters. "I'm fascinated by the potential that's now emerging."

He was replaced as CEO by Corel's chief technology officer, Derek Burney. "Open-source software isn't a moneymaker", said Burney, "Microsoft's .Net strategy will change computing as we know it."

By this time, Microsoft, which had an interest in keeping WordPerfect afloat for antitrust reasons, had invested $135 million in Corel. According to Burney: "There is a contract that says we have to put the .Net framework into our major applications within six months of the release of .Net."

Shortly thereafter, Corel divested itself of its Linux distribution, and discontinued support for WordPerfect and CorelDraw on Linux. It has been assumed by many that this was an unwritten condition of Microsoft's investment in Corel.

In August 2001, Xandros Incorporated announced that it had secured the rights to Corel's Linux distribution and a US$10 million investment from Linux Global Partners, a Venture Capital firm. Like Corel, Xandros has its roots in Ottawa, Canada, and retained the majority of Corel's original Linux software development team. Linux Global Partners also invested heavily in other Linux companies, the best known of which are probably CodeWeavers and Ximian (before it was sold to Novell).

[...]

The biggest problem for Xandros and Linspire has been the "patent covenants" that both companies signed with Microsoft, and the detrimental effect that these agreements have had on ongoing relationships with the Linux user and developer communities.

Jeremy Allison of Samba made the point when he resigned from Novell over the same issue. "Whilst the Microsoft patent agreement is in place there is nothing we can do to fix community relations. And I really mean nothing," he wrote. "Until the patent provision is revoked, we are pariahs.... Unfortunately the time I am willing to wait for this agreement to be changed... has passed, and so I must say goodbye."

[...]

To which, Alan Cox, the best known of Linux kernel developers after Linus Torvalds, replied: "That would be because we believe in Free Software and doing the right thing (a practice you appear to have given up on). Maybe it is time the term 'open source' also did the decent thing and died out with you."


Can you see what happened to Corel? Two-way assimilation (Microsoft to open [1, 2], and open to the Microsoft API). Good luck to Novell and .Net Mono. The major news at the moment is about GNOME 3.0 (version number bump from 2.3). Miguel de Icaza once said that GNOME 4.0 would be based on .Net. A recent appointment makes the mind boggle a bit [1, 2]. Mono is already there.

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