08.18.07

The Novell/Microsoft Deal Dissected

Posted in GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, Patent Covenant, Patents, Protocol, Red Hat, Samba, Ubuntu at 9:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A regular reader of this site, MattD, has taken a look at Novell’s FAQ about the Microsoft deal. His analysis is worth extra attention. The FAQ is by no means new, but knowing what we know 9 months later, the intents are transparent. MattD’s words are highlighted in red.

I found the language of this FAQ quite revealing. Please note how often the word Linux and SuSE are used interchangeably throughout this document. Below are a few quotes that I felt spoke volumes about how they wished to penetrate the market at the cost of Free and Open Source Applications and OSes.

“Microsoft and Novell provide patent coverage for each others customers, giving customers peace of mind regarding patent issues.”

“customers of SUSE Linux Enterprise know they have patent protection from Microsoft in connection with their use of SUSE Linux Enterprise”

“The patent protection offered by Microsoft applies to ALL customers who subscribe to a SUSE Linux Enterprise product. It does not matter if you purchased SLES or SLED, if you bought it directly from Novell, from a reseller, from a distributor, or acquired it via a coupon from Microsoft. If you have a current subscription to SUSE Linux Enterprise, then you are covered by the Microsoft patent protection. Microsoft has provided a covenant not to assert its patent portfolio directly to customers who have purchased SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell.”

“While some future scenarios may not be included, we have established a working relationship and structure to have conversations about those issues as they arise.”

The statement above has additional negative value as more and more Microsoft related technology enters Linux. This site has spoken about GNOME and MONO. I also think that Microsoft’s attempt to penetrate the server market, which Linux controls, is a motivating factor with .Net making headway into Linux.

“Novell believes customers with heterogeneous networks are best served by an **independent** operating systems vendor like Novell”

Above – independent is used incorrectly as they have relied on efforts by too many people over too many years who wanted nothing more than avoid this disaster.

“In terms of a possible Oracle move to offer support for SUSE Linux Enterprise, Novell believes customers with heterogeneous networks are best served by an **independent** operating systems vendor like Novell”

The statement above was in answer to Oracle offering support for Red Hat. If Oracle intends to support Novell, I haven’t heard about it. All I’ve heard is Oracle certifying their apps (DB, etc) on SuSE. If I’m wrong about Oracle, someone please correct me – otherwise it sounds like they are “dropping names”.

“the companies will create a joint research facility and pursue new software solutions for virtualization, management, and document format compatibility.”

Above: This is where OOXML comes into play as well as MS OS virtualization… something Microsoft is making alot of noise about.

“Microsoft will distribute as part of a resale arrangement approximately 70,000 coupons for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support per year so that customers can benefit from the use of the **new** software solutions developed through the collaborative research effort, as well as a version of Linux that is covered with respect to Microsoft’s IP rights.”

Re: Above statement – Proprietary solutions (”new software solutions”), vendor lock-in, IP threats… Typical Microsoft tactics. Coupons are the only area where MS helps Novell by helping it make money in the short-term – their only motivation.

“Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.”

Above Statement – This is where Microsoft rides the coattails of the efforts of thousands of Open Source developers whose work span an excess of 16 years. They get to make money off Linux without doing a thing. This is a future hedge in case Microsoft OSes fall off the radar in 10-20-30 years. This is also a test to see how effective this plan will be – which is why it’s only 5 years.

“The patent agreement demonstrates that Microsoft is willing to enter into agreements that extend its patent protection to open source customers.”

Above – Incorrect. Protection is for Novell not Open Source Customers in general using competing Linuxes unless they pay unsubstantiated protection money.

“both Novell and Microsoft felt it was appropriate to make this pledge for Microsoft not to assert its patents against the non-commercial community.”

“The terms of the individual, non-commercial developer patent non-assert are on www.microsoft.com/interop. You are covered if you are doing non-commercial open source software development. This includes individual enthusiasts, such as a student or a developer who does work on his own time on a project of personal interest to him.”

The previous two statements above is where they hope to get community support.

“If you are compensated for your development, then your activities are considered “commercial”, and you would not be covered.”

Statement above – This is where Ubuntu, Red Hat and all other commercial efforts (DSL, PuppyLinux, etc) are threatened.

“Under the patent agreement, customers will receive coverage for Mono, Samba, and OpenOffice.org as well as .NET and Windows Server. All of these technologies will be improved upon during the five years of the agreement and there are some limits on the coverage that would be provided for future technologies added to these offerings.”

Above statement – section where OpenOffice is threatened if run on any environment outside of Novell or Microsoft OSes. OpenOffice hits MS directly in their pockets and is considered among their biggest threats.

They go on to discuss their mutual strategy involving Virtualization, Web Services and Document Format Compatibility. This is the lock-out strategy. When the five years are up, I guess it’ll be Linux vs MS… two proprietary OSes. Microsoft FTW.

This protection racket scheme buys Microsoft Five whole years. In this time, Linux can become more fragmented (if Novell is chosen as the distro of choice). Novell has the opportunity to pull into a healthy lead (given MS resources in the press, government, etc) but it can be an Apple type of lead, something Microsoft can battle more effectively especially given Novell’s reliance on MS tech.

Novell, with their newfound reliance on .NET, Office Document “Standards”, Virtualization of MS-OS will make their Linux version an also-ran. Technologies like PHP and Apache are also threatened.

In an article on Information Week, the following point is made:

Novell “posted a $20 million loss in its first quarter and needs to boost revenues. The Microsoft partnership had been doing just that for the company. Novell said that it’s already booked $7.6 million in sales as a result of the alliance and has recorded $338 million in deferred revenue.”

”What’s deferred revenue? It’s money that Novell has already collected for services not yet provided. If its partnership with Microsoft goes poof and it’s unable to provide the services–well, you get the picture.”

Novell was a desperate company and desperate companies (and people) do desperate things… sometimes selling their own souls. The cost… Linux, Open Source, Competition, Choices…

The biggest enemy remains Microsoft. Novell is willingly allowing itself to be used as pawn for short-term monetary gain. Microsoft’s benefits are huge as they continue to infect Novell’s Linux and a number of open source applications with proprietary MS-only softTech. If this continues, Microsoft indeed will have cause to assert copyright claims on some Linux distributions creating a cascade effect.

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12 Comments

  1. Pascal Bleser said,

    August 19, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Gravatar

    Yawn. Childish, really. No real analysis, nothing new under the [Ss]un.
    Just trying to pull things out of hot air by interpreting what Novell stated in their FAQ with your permanent campaign against Novell and openSUSE.

    “The statement above has additional negative value as more and more Microsoft related technology enters Linux.[...], is a motivating factor with .Net making headway into Linux.”
    “More and more” ? .NET, AD and OOXML. Show me more. Point is, you’re putting it like MS is polluting Linux through Novell, but OTOH when you’re in a scenario where the customer has AD, has .NET applications, has MS Office and you can’t change a thing about it, then it’s more than welcome to have support for those protocols, platforms, formats on Linux. Not having them means that Linux in those environments are a plain and simple no-go. Assuming that you can just turn up at a customer and tell him “oh yeah, just drop everything you have, we’ll replace it with Linux altogether, at once” is ridiculous. If you can, great, but if you don’t, it’s a much better situation if you’re able to integrate with existing MS solutions than just having to take the door and leaving the lost customer with a 100% MS infrastructure.

    My favourite one is the following though: “This is where Microsoft rides the coattails of the efforts of thousands of Open Source developers whose work span an excess of 16 years. They get to make money off Linux without doing a thing.”
    Oh really. And what about Red Hat, Canonical, Mandriva, Nokia, Oracle, ……….. ? They’re all selling products based on the work of thousands of Open Source developers. And not only them. Myriads of commercial businesses make money off of Open Source software.
    “without doing a thing” — yeah, sure, Novell isn’t contributing anything to Open Source or Linux, right ? You gotta be kidding.

    And it goes on and on, just interpretation with the glasses of “oh I want to hate Novell so bad”.

  2. Jonna Davenport said,

    August 19, 2007 at 6:30 pm

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    Microsoft is dead and gone, in my opinion, since I have been using Linux in my company (410 computers, 5 separate networks) since 2003. MS could fall off the face of the earth and the intelligent people on this planet wouldn’t even notice it.

    Long live Linux!!!

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 19, 2007 at 7:46 pm

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    @Pascal:

    And what about Red Hat, Canonical, Mandriva, Nokia, Oracle, ……….. ? They’re all selling products based on the work of thousands of Open Source developers.

    They don’t put the developers at risk.

  4. john said,

    August 19, 2007 at 7:53 pm

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    The headline screams “analysis”. Too bad the actual content falls far short of the headline. There is no analysis, there is not even proof that the author read the agreements.
    Not too long ago Mark Shuttleworth blogged that MS was fracturing the Linux community. But it is clearly evident that sites/articles like this do more to fracture the community than MS could ever do. Sad.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 19, 2007 at 8:12 pm

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    The ‘community’ is not being divided. Some people just no longer wish to be part of it. Instead, they want to earn money at its expense (and the work of hundreds of thousands of developers).

  6. Pascal Bleser said,

    August 20, 2007 at 2:23 am

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    Ah come on Roy, this is really the worst and most childish argumentation someone could possibly come up with. Seriously, it’s even more laughable than MS’ “get the facts” campaign.
    Putting “developers at risk” ? You’re quoting stuff one person wrote on a community blog that is by no means affiliated with Novell, without even knowing the openSUSE community, the people who are involved, the projects its working on, etc…

    What’s next ? “no you said it first!” – “no it was you!” – “no you!” ?
    You’re just interpreting anything with an extreme bias to make it turn out like Novell and the openSUSE community is …. what ? An evil conspiration that wants to infiltrate Microsoft into the Linux community ? omg

    Not that I really care, you’re obviously a pretty unexperienced person in the IT world, you don’t really have a clue what you’re talking about, and it’s just whatever you can turn into some sort of negative argumentation against Novell and openSUSE is pumped up to a terrific headline for your hate site. Point is just that this is both _almost_ complete nonsense (sometimes a few points are valid and interesting to think about, but the rest just makes it so incredibly irrelevant on your site, too bad), and really insulting towards the many volunteers who commit their free time, motivation and efforts into the openSUSE distribution and community.
    And no, this isn’t shooting the messenger, because there isn’t a message, there’s just you and your hate of openSUSE and Novell.
    Get a life, contribute something useful.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 20, 2007 at 2:33 am

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    I was not quiting an unreliable person. I was indirectly quoting the following analysis: http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=20070614231022599

    openSUSE developers need to be aware of the impact the deal has on their work. We wrote about this several times before.

  8. MattD said,

    August 20, 2007 at 10:09 am

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    So many people defend Novell with arguments centered around the need for cooperation and interoperability yet they say nothing about the copyright threats. Anyone in favor of the Microsoft-Novell deal should just come out and state the following if you are able to:

    Linux and Free Open Source Applications that directly compete with Microsoft’s money makers unquestionably infringe on Microsoft Copyrights. Distibutions such as Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu, Puppy Linux, Damn Small Linux, Debian, Mepis, Knoppix, Slackware, Gentoo and a bunch of others (includng derivative works) are infringing on Microsoft patents.

    Anyone using a Linux distribution is currently operating under an “undisclosed balance sheet liability” (as stated by Steve Ballmer), except those that signed copyright deals with Microsoft.

    Every single Linux distribution owes Microsoft current and retroactive licensing fees for the following unsubstantiated claims:

    Linux kernel – 42 patents infringed
    Linux graphical user interfaces – 65 patents infringed
    Open Office – 45 patents infringed
    Email programs – 15 patents infringed
    Other unnamed “assorted programs” – 68 patents infringed.

    Novell (including OpenSUSE) have already made this statement with the signing of the deal. Novell includes this rhetoric on their site. Please have the courage to defend their position on copyrights which I have yet to see anywhere.

    If you can include this in your argument and make a case for this, it won’t sound like you are misinterpreting the facts – which some are clearly trying to do. Really. Please include the core argument without flying off into unrelated arguments and name-calling that have little to do with the reasons why so many people oppose this deal.

    Computer World reported the following on November of 2006, so this isn’t old news:
    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9005171

    [... Ballmer said Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell Inc. earlier this month because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and Microsoft wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation." ...]

    [... A key element of the agreement now appears to be Novell's $40 million payment to Microsoft in exchange for the latter company's pledge not to sue SUSE Linux users over possible patent violations. Also protected are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers who create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers who are paid to create code that goes into the distribution. ...]

  9. Sriram said,

    February 6, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Gravatar

    A childish comment! How does their deal affect you? Why should a person with self-respect get affected by such deals? Anyway, no one is compelling you to use SuSE! I simply love openSUSE, dunno y!

  10. Mark Fink said,

    February 6, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Gravatar

    Anyone who even considers using *SUSE, Mono, or GNOME (now that it’s been leaked that they are in league with Microsoft as well) or any other Novell product is a moron. Plain and simple.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 6, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Gravatar

    Sriram,

    Microsoft’s aspiration — in which Novell is a bystander or an accomplice — is to have us stand deep inside the Mono quicksand (or mud). This way, GNU/Linux users become more legally sensitive. Why can’t you see this? Novell already pays Microsoft _per unit sale_ of software Microsoft has not contributed a single line of code to.

    Comment from Groklaw (hours ago): “[PJ: Here's where he should start: The Microsoft deal has to be dealt with. Until it is, it will not go away as an issue. And the promise to fix the developers' agreement was never kept. And selling Miguel to the community is going to be a very hard sell.]“

  12. Jose_X said,

    September 12, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Gravatar

    Pascal Bleser,

    >> Yawn. Childish, really. No real analysis, …

    I found more analysis there (of no worse quality) than within your reply. You should try to be critical in a positive manner if you have little analysis you are otherwise going to contribute.

    >> Not having them means that Linux in those environments are a plain and simple no-go.

    Who told you this? Are you saying that Microsoft is giving those customers of theirs that are 100% faithful an opportunity to leave them when they otherwise would stick it out?

    Are you trying to imply that customers that would not leave Microsoft (Microsoft shops) now have a path onto Linux thanks to Microsoft facilitating this, encouraging it, and paying Novell for the honor?

    Are you out of your mind? Do you think Ballmer is out of his mind?

    Ever heard of legacy? Ever heard of keeping around what you have for the lifetime of the current investments but starting new projects on something else? I’ve only just stuck my head inside where nonFOSS developers spend their days, and that was enough to know that when management is disappointed or wants to hedge, developers acquire new skills beyond the Microsoft stuff.

    How about this “new” theory instead: Microsoft doesn’t want former Microsoft shops that are thinking of making a real attempt with Linux to see what Linux at its best can provide; hence, Novell enters the picture to help Linux look inferior. “Interop” with a closed source monopolist depends on Microsoft’s generosity at all times and Linux will look weak(er). Also, with Novell, Microsoft gets a cut that they would not get if Red Hat entered the picture. So for a “comparison” to even be possible, have Novell follow Microsoft rather than Microsoft follow neutral standards that Linux follows.

    FOSS is a great deal because there is always the implicit second source that is 100% no charge. The transparency means that investments are not lost. Developers know they will be learning something that will be around and can be supported by them or anyone else far off into the future. They can also contribute to make it better, and they can carry their skills and sometimes even their projects to new jobs. The acquire new skills as they find a need rather than as Microsoft determines it’s time for their little “rats” to start another lap.
    [From http://boycottnovell.com/comes-vs-microsoft/text/msg00067.html .. I don’t know too many that enter rat holes besides rats:
    >> We do not suggest that we “merge CDA and OLE” or any of the other hundred rat holes that could be entered .. Long term I can’t imagine their current world surving so I frankly think we are helping their future.]

    Microsoft will lose money, and they want a way to keep little rats investing in their products and on the treadmill and at least getting a cut of the proceeds for Linux use.

    Microsoft is legacy ..if you care about control on your terms and privacy.

    Novell can redeem itself to an extent as follow: When the contract is over (maybe even anger Microsoft quickly to have them end it), drop everything and then tell the newly acquired customers that you needed to remain alive so took the money from Microsoft but otherwise think Microsoft is screwed in the brain. Show them what Linux is like in a Linux only environment and tell them first thing is to dump Vista as the virtualization host. Later on Novell can help these customers migrate to anything else (eg, ODF…), and Novell can start contributing well to FOSS again. Make Microsoft lose time and money having to come play on our terms (even if they will try and cheat.. eg, as they will almost certainly do with ODF). Hopefully, Novell hasn’t signed away its rights to do these sorts of things or to pass on the names or particularly valuable clients.

    The fact that Novell can theoretically redeem itself at some point doesn’t change anything today. Microsoft, too, can redeem itself. The failure of mono, OOXML, and many other things today means that Microsoft would not be helped out that much today.

    [Actually, Novell forking dotnet could be useful to Novell and hurt Microsoft. Help MSDotNet people learn and use something that is different enough. In fact, Novell can even go closed source for those customers that are confused beyond hope. In this case, NovellDotNet will not work with MSDotNet and that might be an advantage with some of these customers. Actually, you can keep existing code working in the new version but change the binaries.. maybe even consider Parrot Virtual Machine as a base (if possible ??) instead of CLR. Deprecate MSAPI in favor of LinuxAPIs.]

    “Dotnet” is not something I support. Anything that helps Microsoft retain their position, grow, hedge, etc, I don’t support proportionately with how much that helps Microsoft after the pros and cons are weighted (as I judge it naturally). Help port to Linux and to Linux/open technologies and standards. Help grow mind share for Linux, FOSS, and real standards.

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