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Sun, Red Hat, Microsoft, and Novell: Whose Side is IBM on?

Conflict of interests is something which IBM is well aware of due to its enormous scale. When it comes to Linux and UNIX, there is a conflict. Red Hat and Novell is another. IBM needs to play with Microsoft too, so there is a lot one needs to balance. But what is IBM's take on the Novell/Microsoft deal? Here is one disconcerting take on the issue:

First, IBM and Novell announced a new partnership on the desktop and in relation to IBM's Websphere Community Edition. Aimed directly at Red Hat's JBoss Application Server, this move is fascinating in that it represents the prodigal son returning to the IBM fold, apparently with complete foregiveness for entering that deal with Microsoft. There is no question that this move by IBM will challenge Red Hat/JBoss. And as for the great offense that IBM took with Novell for cozying up to Microsoft, all you have to do is look at the next event.

The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council sent out their invite for upcoming events this week. One of those events is entitled: Microsoft & Novell - Building Bridges. On its face you would expect this to be one of those Microsoft - Novell events trying to justify and promote their relationship. However, this invitation was more interesting given the session sponsors: IBM and the Choate law firm. (Sorry, that little tidbit is not available on the MTLC website; it was included in the e-mail invitation.) So here we have IBM sponsoring a session that attempts to rationalize and buy into the theory that the Microsoft - Novell deal is actually promoting interoperability.


I am pretty certain this anonymised item comes from Mark Webbink (Red Hat). Let us remember that IBM assisted SuSE's acquisition by Novel. IBM also gave its approval and endorsement on the day Novell signed the deal with Microsoft. So what can be concluded? IBM also talks to Sun, with which it shares document format ambitions. Meanwhile, Novell antagonises that with vocal OOXML supporters such as Miguel de Icaza.

IBM still supports Sun and OpenOffice.org, which is not competing too directly with Lotus. With ODF support 'out of the box', they help each other and the recent Solaris-OEM deal speaks volumes.

It seems likely that one of IBM's main executives will attend an OpenOffice.org event, based on yesterday's links dump from his blog. While he lobbies for elimination of OOXML as a standard, Novell goes the other way. Whose side is IBM on and how are things being balanced? Are different departments holding a different view on these matters? What will happen when/if Sun becomes more like Novell and Red Hat?

Jonathan Schwartz has done a great favor for his own customers, and may increase software revenues down the road. But all his spin is really lipstick on a pig.

In many ways, Sun is becoming Red Hat.

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