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Why Novell Teamed Up with Microsoft for a Web Hijack

Silverlight stack
Miguel&Novell's vision of GNU/Linux (image from the public domain)



It became increasingly clear quite a while back that Big Vendors will make repeated attempt to gain control over the Web, all thanks to the nature of the Web. There was great resistance to this, especially when binary extensions such as ActiveX [1, 2, 3] and Shockwave were introduced and made a nuisance through undesirable ubiquity.

Inevitable perhaps is a case where Mozilla will have to respond to new needs and do so while honouring the very same adherence to standards and open source ideals that made the company strong in the first place.

A couple of days ago, Mozilla outlined a future direction for Firefox, already making a mention of Firefox 4. You can find the article here or just read the fragment below, which ought to suffice.

Beard's philosophy is this: The browser needs to evolve. Beard believes the browser concept hasn't fundamentally changed in 10 years. It's still an isolated piece of software, he says. Mozilla Lab's push is to blur the edges of the browser, to make it both more tightly integrated with the computer it's running on, and also more hooked into Web services. So extended, the browser becomes an even more powerful and pervasive platform for all kinds of applications.


Another almost simultaneous blog post speaks about Mozilla's Prism and how it compares to Adobe's and Microsoft's proprietary alternatives. Bear in mind that neither Adobe nor Microsoft support GNU/Linux at this stage (Adobe makes promises to GNU/Linux users, citing some time "later this year"). Anyway, have a look:

Adobe, Microsoft and Mozilla are platform vendors. Adobe pushes Flash, Microsoft pushes .Net and we, at Mozilla, push the Open Web. And recently, Adobe has announced AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), Microsoft has announced Silverlight and some people at Mozilla are working on Prism. Why these three organizations have been doing this recently? To extend their application development platforms (and leverage their numerous developers) to places where it is either weak or non-existent before:

1. Adobe pushed Flash from the browser to the desktop with AIR 2. Microsoft pushed the .Net stuff from Windows to the browser 3. Mozilla pushed the Open Web technologies from the browser to the desktop

So, in a way, Adobe and Mozilla moves are the same, except that Adobe promotes their proprietary technologies, while Mozilla promotes the Open Web and make its applications easier to use and more integrated with the desktop.


Novell aligned with the second among these three, choosing platform discrimination and software patents by doing so. Recall yesterday's post on downstream licenses and code binary blobs. This is by no means an encouraging sign, yet it's a path Novell was willing to take in exchange for Microsoft's cash injection, which was apparently needed.

“...Microsoft pushes its selfish 'agenda' -- so to speak -- and forces it upon GNU/Linux as a whole via Novell.”This relationship between Novell and Microsoft is a very important one to watch because Microsoft pushes its selfish 'agenda' -- so to speak -- and forces it upon GNU/Linux as a whole via Novell. Anything that comes from Novell must therefore be accepted only with a good dose of skepticism. We were told by a Linux journalist yesterday that we are not the only one to be worried about this situation, which left him "crabby".

Novell's relationship with Microsoft goes beyond just the borders of these two companies. Consider the recent story about SUSE, SAP and Intel for example. Also watch what came up last week. Two Microsoft partners, Novell and the monopoly-abusing Intel, had quite a presence at Microsoft's OSBC. Here, see for yourself:

Roger Levy, the general manager of Novell's open platform solutions business group, agreed that customers choose their operating system based on what they feel they would get with it.

Being able to customize the operating system and still preserve its key attributes while being supported is the model of the future. "The open-source community happens to do support very well," Levy said.


There is nothing too suspicious here, but since when do Intel and Novell speak for GNU/Linux? In a Microsoft-funded conference, it's likely that we will see a lot more of this in time to come. They'll redefine the game which is based on their own convenience, ideology, philosophy, business goals, interpretation, obligations to other companies (notably Microsoft) and many other factors.

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