Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft's Official Entry into the Linux Space

More from the Q&A session with Stafford Masie at the recent CITI forum.

There are a few interesting aspects to this exchange from the Q&A session from the recent CITI conference, the first of which is further evidence that the Patent Covenant quacks very much like a Patent Cross License, that this deal is Microsoft's "official entry into the Linux space", and Novell feels that they are big enough to take on Microsoft's agenda:

...Stafford, you said in your presentation two things that I find interesting, you said that Novell does the patenting for protection and Novell will not use this for actually suing people for patent infringements, then you said that Microsoft paid you guys a lot of money for these patents. Is Microsoft, maybe they've got a different agenda?

There's a couple of ways to answer that question, 'do they have a different agenda?' I don't particularly care for their agenda, and I don't think Novell does, either.

We believe what we're doing is good for interoperability for our customers based upon the customer demand. If they have an agenda, we have got lots of vehicles to protect ourselves - we have not conceded anything, we have not said that we've infringed - they have access to our patents, we have access to their patents - so essentially, its a level playing field. I don't know what their follow-on agenda could be.

I do believe this is Microsoft's official entry into the Linux space. If you really take a step back, and let's talk... the CD's recording, so I'm on the record... this is Microsoft's entrance into the Linux game, this is how they get into Linux.

In fact, how else would they have gotten into Linux? If someone can ask that question seriously, sit down and say how... what other choice did Microsoft have? Release their own distribution? No one wants that. Open-source Windows? Damn, no - no one's going to do that... how do they get into it?

I think they have to get in by assimilating and this is one way of participating in it, and this is to me a big... not just a toe, they're hip-deep in the water now. They're really feeling this thing out, getting a better understanding, and you know what, its an opportunity for us to get a vendor like Microsoft, which - they're easy to bash, yes - we don't really like them, they have this 'triple E' - Extend, Ext...what?... Embrace, Extend, Exterminate type strategy - we've seen it in the past with their partnerships, but I really do believe that with Ray Ozzie heading up Microsoft now, and alot of the changes that's happened there, Microsoft realizes that the future lies in the applications aspect of the business, not in the platform aspects of the business.

This that they've done now gains them entry into a huge momentum shift, I think what you see now I dont think we all fully fathom what is going to happen 5 years from now because of this agreement, I think this could be massive.

This is the biggest Operating System in the world, Linux, in terms of server shipments in the history of computing, nothing has shipped percentage-wise as big and as quick as this saturation that's taking place, with the second biggest platform, and now there's interoperability between these environments, its good for customers, its good for us, its good as the community and I think its gonna take the Linux community really deep into the enterprise, because I can already tell you whats happening on the ground - commercial customers are calling us in and saying 'y'know what, this virtualization stuff, we've been looking at the Windows stuff but y'know we really believe Linux could do some really cool things for us'.

And, when we engage with our partners there... its customers that weve never spoken to, were speaking to partners that weve never spoken to, so everyone is suddenly talking Linux on a scale that we've never seen before, its a good thing.

What this will look like 5 years from now, what Microsoft will look like, how the Desktop Operating System, Network Operating System and Office Productivity Suite landscape will look like 5 years from now will be interesting - I believe it will be a commodity, I believe you will pay for support for them - and not what you pay today for them, and its gonna be good for everyone.

So, also - GPL V3 - just to end it off, protects... I believe, you take a look at what GPL the draft looks like today - if Microsoft ever wanted to do anything and we did it off GPL V3 it'd still protect us, so... we're confident, we're big enough, we've got the patent portfolio and this agreement's in place, so we can handle their agendas.

Of course, even if Novell can handle Microsoft's agenda due to their size, the agreement and their patent portfolio, how could anyone else in the community? Doesn't this deal exclude all but the largest software companies, with the requisite portfolio for cartel membersip, from the 'enterprise' space (assuming they are only interested in suing large corporations)?

By making this deal, Novell essentially says, you can Embrace Microsoft, or Join With Us (in our Embrace with Microsoft).

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