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Microsoft, Novell, and Novell Open Audio

A small flood of requests to get an interview on the Microsoft/Novell announcement has begun to fill my inbox. I will be working today to put together a special edition for Novell Open Audio.

I am not sure who I will have as a guest yet, but if there was ever a time for listeners to provide their questions, it is now.

Here are some ways that you can get your questions in:

  • Comment on this blog post.
  • Leave us a voicemail via Skype. Our Skype ID is “novellopenaudio”
  • Send an email to openaudio@novell.com. Audio attachements are especially good.
  • Voice mail us at our North American toll free number: 800-218-1400

I will try to use as many questions from the community as I can.

[Update, Friday evening: I was unable to get time with any of the key people that would be an authorative voice. I think I have someone lined up for Monday and I ‘ll try to get the interview out the same day if at all possible.]


33 Responses

  1. Should Novell be worried about Microsoft burying them in the same way that Netscape was dealt with by Microsoft?

    How does any of this benefit OSS in general? Sure, it might help suse linux, but suse is not the begining or the end of OSS. It’s a small piece.

  2. All the benefits are for SLES customers. What about OES users?

  3. Novell needs to provide more details on this deal to answer alot of the apparent negative consequences. In particular whether Suse Linux will remain true to GPL and what this means for other Linux distros. At first glance it seems novell has given microsoft the path to sue every other linux company but themselves. Sure Microsoft won’t sue the hackers but what about RedHat. Take for example samba, even if this deals creates a better intropolarity in Samba if the results are not GPL that everyone can use free of Microsoft lawyers than this deal has set open source back not forward.

    Novell, you need to provide the answers quick before the tide shift and novell loses it’s credibility with the open source community. Just look at any article about the deal and you will see every open source guru is worried that the devil is in the details.

  4. Ted, thanks for running one out so soon ,and on a Friday ! as well. Okay So ia have a question . well more a concern. The press seems to suggest that this move will future proof SLED Enterprise users from possible Patent Litigation. At the risk of buring bridges I was building with Novell . Doesnt this agreement create the fear of of some Damocles Sword of litigation to hang over the heads of any enterprise thay fails to embrace that one “blessed” product. And at the risk of asking two questions We understand that code can be forked and kept free but developers may be leary of working in an evironment that may lead to code taint.

  5. One question that’s not strictly about Novell, but since it’s part of the deal they brokered:


    Groklaw spotted the same thing I did, which is that the “Patent Pledge for Non-Compensated Developers” seems to only apply to a lone developer who doesn’t distribute his/her work (“This pledge …does not apply to … the distribution of Your Original Work **by You** or others”)

    How is this supposed to encourage open source development? What is open source development without code sharing?

  6. Ted, this is generating a tonne of distrustful discussion on the net. A lot of people seem to think Novell has sold out or sold its soul. It feels like Novell has tacitly acknowledged that there is pantent infringement in Linux and OSS, by entering into this agreement. That opens up Microsoft to use the agreement as ammunition against other Linux vendors which indeed, Ballmer has already started. Also, how can OSS coders write code that infringes patents that are protected under this agreement, and then release it to the community? It seems like Novell would have to fork damn near every GPLed project.

  7. This is great, It came in just at a perfect time, when i’m converting a Company’s Windows Network to SUSE Linux.

  8. What is Novell’s response to articles Novell Sells Out and The Morning After – Reactions to Novell-MS from Groklaw. To me personally this deal looks like a legal trap for free (as in freedom) software and Linux and as far as I could see from other articles it also violates the GPL license.

  9. Ted,
    Hugely important question:

    Does this mean that DRM Windows Media will soon work (legally) in Amarok (or Banshee) on SuSE?

  10. After reviewing SLED10 for a publication, I was seriously considering switching to it from Fedora.

    Looks like a good thing I didn’t. So I’m testing FC6 right now.

  11. Hi Ted.

    I have sort of the same questions about this deal between Micrsoft and Novell that Bruce Perens have.

    “One of the questions yet to be settled is whether Novell will violate the GPL, the license of the Linux kernel and other important software, by offering patent protection that is exclusive to Novell customers. The press release pretty much stated that. On that topic, the preamble of the GPL says it best:

    We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone’s free use or not licensed at all.”

    Bruce Perens comments of the deal can be read here in full:


    Looking forward to the answer.
    Warm Regards,

  12. Well the deal has created a topic of discussion for all the OSS podcasts as well as most of the other tech podcasts. I know you’re working to get someone on NOA to speak, but can we also expect some Novell folks to be interviewed on some of these other podcasts to address the concerns voiced by the OSS community?

  13. So does this mean Microsoft will have a booth at BrainShare 2007 and Novell will have a booth at upcoming Microsoft conferences?

  14. As you and others have noted, this agreement has not been seen in the best light by open source advocates and others. So, in the spirit of openness and in the interest of allaying some of the FUD, some questions for you:

    * Will Novell or Microsoft publish the complete and total agreement between Microsoft and Novell, including ancillary documents?

    * Will either publish the complete list of patents covered by this agreement?

    * If they are published on the web, will the published documents be digitally signed by the corporate officers who signed the paper “original”?

  15. Because of this agreement, I guess that Microsoft will contribute to GPL software. (I mean not only code, but also knowledge). Does Microsoft license all patents is this contribution for free to everyone? Because this is required by the GPL.

  16. Explain in detail how Novells feels it hasn’t violated the GPL by paying a patient fee per SUSE 10 it sells.

    Here’s part of the press release from Novell.
    Under the patent agreement, both companies will make up-front payments in exchange for a release from any potential liability for use of each others patented intellectual property, with a net balancing payment from Microsoft to Novell reflecting the larger applicable volume of Microsoft’s product shipments. Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.

    Here’s a snipet from the GPL.
    “If you make an agreement which requires you to pay a royalty to anybody for the right to distribute GPL software, you may not distribute it under the GPL,” Moglen told CNET News.com Thursday. Section 7 of the GPL “requires that you have, and pass along to everybody, the right to distribute software freely and without additional permission.”…
    Whether the partnership precludes Novell from distributing Linux depends on precise terms of the agreement that Moglen hasn’t seen, he cautioned.

  17. As per Groklaws website.

  18. “To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone’s free use or not licensed at all.”

    Seems pretty straight forward.

  19. The deal between MS and Novel implies that the OLPC project is constructing a laptop which will infringe on MS’ patents. The OLPC project is NOT covered by the covenant.

    This means that millions of children might be denied their laptop after these have been produced and shipped at great cost.

    Don’t you feel morally obliged to inform the OLPC project about the patents they infringe?

  20. Mine post wast deleted,so I ask again:
    This agreement between, microsoft wil contribute to GPL software (maybe knowlegde or code). Doe microsoft license their patents for free to all,as the GPL requires?

    [From Ted: Apologies, Jeroen. WordPress.com’s spam filtering sometimes files things incorrectly, and I have a hard time softing through all the spam comments for valid ones. Your comment this time is approved. My policy is to approve all comments, positive or negative, unless they are abusive or misleading. Yours absolutely should not have been deleted.]
    [Ted rethinks:Hmmm…looks like I just hadn’t approved the comment yet. So, apologies for the delay, not the delete. :)]

  21. The following is a copy of my e-mail sent to Novell Open Audio that Ted cohosts. I wonder if PR considerations will force its editing/removal.
    First, let me start by telling you that I have listened to your audiocast since its first episode and go and rate each one (I even bothered with your survey). I own Novell stock. I purchased SLED. I have ardently advocated openSUSE within the tech circles I move. I have spent a fair amount of time updating and improving information on the openSUSE website wiki and have filed bugs against the distro. I tell you these things not to brag, but so that you will understand that I have invested my time, money, social & professional credibility, and emotions into Novell and SUSE Linux.
    When I first heard of the agreement I probably suffered the same gut reaction that many had, WTF!?! I decided to wait a bit and see what the analysis was, what Novell’s responses were, and so on. Having read many pundit’s accounts, thought about the issues involved, and combed all released information coming out of Novell and Microsoft, I finally came to some conclusions.
    You might look at the continued analysis at groklaw.net for the best coverage and implications of these events. Ted, you mentioned Ron H. as a person who is most interested in customer welfare. If so, I believe his personal decision to begin this process and see it through to the end was terribly short sighted. By Novell’s agreements with Microsoft they have attempted to skirt (though I don’t think a court of law will side with Novell if pressed) section 7 of the GPL. I believe they failed. I believe SLED, SLES, and SLERT are now illegitimate distributions of Linux until the agreements with Microsoft are nullified. Further, the implicit agreement that there is IP within GNU/Linux that Microsoft has patent rights over is wholly damaging to the community of Free Software developers working on GNU/Linux, not just as independent volunteers, but at commercial institutions.
    If you read the comments around the Internet at a host of sites, Novell has blown all of, and I mean ALL of, their credibility they earned since 2003 with the open source community. You may have a great many developers working at Novell on Free Software projects, and those may stay or leave in time, but the rest of the community is forced to either consider all code coming from those developers as potentially tainted with Microsoft IP concerns and reject it as such, or force Novell’s accountability.
    As I sit, the removal of Jack M. and the installation of Ron H. may be the singularly worst thing to happen to Novell since 2003. Depending on what this costs Novell in the long run with their new business strategy around GNU/Linux, the promotion of Ron H. may prove to be one of the worst events in Novell’s history. As such, I will be selling my Novell stock, I have thrown out all my copies of SLED and openSUSE, I installed Ubuntu (and have since switched to gNewSense – what an amazing thing to have that distro released right when Novell was so badly going astray), I will eat the crow of no longer supporting SUSE based poducts to those I know, and will probably not continue to track your audiocast with any devotion. This has been a very difficult set of decisions to arrive at, and I have felt enormous emotional let down as I watch the company I felt was doing the most for the technology community I belong to negate their efforts.
    Ted and Erin – you put on one of the best audiocasts around in the technology world. You both come across as sincere and intelligent people. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors with the audiocast and working within Novell. I however believe that the ultimate complete failure of your employer after this business decision is in the best interests of the Open Source movement. Thank you for sharing your skills, energy, and enthusiasm with all of us.
    Thank you

  22. What about another commercial company ? Could MS sue them if they don’t sign the same agreement ?

  23. Your new friend Ballmer had some choice things to say – see the link and the excerpts.

    How are we to consider your partner’s comments as not indicating a betrayl of the opensource movement on your part – I would assume he includes those completely free distros put together by volunteers as well as the commerical ones.


    The distributors of other versions of Linux cannot assure their customers that Microsoft won’t sue for patent infringement. “If a customer says, ‘Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?’ Essentially, If you’re using non-SUSE Linux, then I’d say the answer is yes,” Ballmer said.

    “I suspect that [customers] will take that issue up with their distributor,” Ballmer said. Or if customers are considering doing a direct download of a non-SUSE Linux version, “they’ll think twice about that,” he said.

  24. This looks like a total disaster for Novell. Someone there needs to be fired for getting them involved in this mess.


  25. 2 things are really contradictory.

    1. Novell is member of OIN, at the same time Novell partenered in “won’t sue” agreement with MS. So, if MS sues some Linux company, where will Novell stand? Behind which agreement? (my opinion, since Novells partnership in OIN is voluntary and partnership with MS is signed by contract, all Novells pledges to OSS and OIN were just blank words for PR, as such inclusion of Mono in distros that was based on Novells participation in OIN was wrong and should be reconsidered.)

    Novell started using “Use with Novell Linux only” sticker. How can this work in OSS world? (my opinion, it can’t. Novell is not Linux, and a real question here is, who depends on whom, linux on Novell or Novell on Linux. Since first one is not true, Novell public OSS projects just became Novell OSS projects.)

    Now the real question. Do you plan to make at least your own OSS products (namely mono) indemnified (or at least without PR sticker “Use it safe with Novell linux”) on other linux distros or not? I think a lot of people is interested in this, because I personally used (currently considering, as I’m still waiting on Novells response or clarification) mono, which was made really valid across linux as part of the OIN deal (1st contradiction invalidates its validity now, while second contradictory claim provides partial only safety which is not simply not possible, not everybody would use Novell linux for all sorts of reasons, as 1 being preference of company admin)

    Partially, I’m happy for my move on Novell linux was planned in slow steps. Because if clarification doesn’t appear soon, this project can simply be abandoned after reaching 10% and move back to RH.

  26. So from what I understand here’s how this deal works.

    I purchase SLES to run my Apache and MySQL apps from Novell becuase we believe in open-source. Novell turns around and pays Microsoft a portion of my sale.

    Excuse you my while I go throw up.

    If micorsoft really wanted better integration they would provide open api’s for thier products. We don’t NEED microsft to make openoffice, Samba or Xen better. They need to make there open products better by making them open. And to think I need to now pay microsoft to use open source developed products.

    I hate to say it but I’ve stuck by Novell for many years but I can’t support this kind of poor business practices any longer.

  27. I can see that uninformed companies (which pretty much means any of the Fortune 500) might be pleased by the idea that Microsoft will not go after them (fear factor), but I have a tough time believing that the open source community will work with SUSE engineers anymore (e.g. tainted beyond belief). Is SUSE prepared to fork and maintain EVERY piece of open source software? If not, I think you might want to look into it.

    I think Microsoft is the most self-centered company in the universe. I fully believe they will stop at nothing (and I mean that) to get their way. What do you think about Microsoft? Do you think they won’t absolutely destroy you? I’m serious. Novell is a VERY small player in comparison (though I know enough Novell folks to understand that you believe yourselves to be giants).

    Are you afraid of Microsoft? Why not? Do you think you’ll be the first (and only) company to take them head on and win? What do your families think of the decision?

  28. 1) As a shareholder – who will be held responsible for the damage this relationship is doing to Novell. I’ve heard from numerous Novell customers immediately developing their plans to protect themselves from Microsoft IP by moving away from the apparently infringing Novell/SLES code base – and noone looking to move from other vendors to Novell. Will someone in Novell be held accountable for the damage this is causing the company? Will someone investigate whether this individual is personally profiting in some way by selling out to Microsoft?

    2) Will Novell release a Free and Open version of Linux in the future that is *NOT* covered by this Microsoft IP agreement? We long liked and supported Suse Linux, but can’t use it if it’s own distributor thinks it contains protected Microsoft IP. We look forward to Novell releasing a new version of Linux that is *NOT* covered by this relationship.

  29. Hi Ted!

    You may remember chatting with me at the Ohio LinuxFest After-Party, I’m the guy involved in Indiana ACCESS that uses Ubuntu.

    I just want to say that until proven otherwise, I’ll still respect Novell.

    Innocent ’til proven Guilty.

    Regardless of the big, flashy explosion of this news (that we’re all understandably wary of), Novell has contributed a lot to the Free Software community and we shouldn’t forget that.

    In fact, you’ve sent several people to the Ubuntu Developer’s Summit happening now at the Googleplex, which I applaud.

    Now, Microsoft is using this as a way of propagating their FUD, but that’s to be expected of ANY move Microsoft makes.

    What we need to know is your story.

    I’m patient to hear from you what Novell thinks it’s doing, and what all implications this will have for our community before making any judgements.

    I put more stock in your word than any FAQ or press release.

    Also, I would consider it a huge faux pas for Novell not to release the full text of all involved documents. We as a community have plenty of our own legal geeks to interpret it, and we would trust them more than any Novell legal geek interpretation on this one.

    If you’re really a part of the Open Source community, then there is nothing to hide, right?

  30. I will also need to see the complete agreements.

    I absolutly do not trust Microsoft as this is a company that is shown that it will do anything and everything to kill competition including outright theft and frivolous lawsuits.

    SuSE has an excellent distribution but, until I know what exactly is in the agreement and am able to determine how it would impact my company, I can no longer support or recommend it. We are now in the process of converting to RH because of this.

  31. There are numerous questions incorporated into the following.

    Let me start by saying that as a developer, I lost interest in contributing to Novell projects as good as some of these are (I would just be contributing to acquiring a skill set that will help ensure Microsoft’s future at the cost of that of Red Hat and others — companies that actually contribute to FLOSS and resist sw patents).

    I imagine that Microsoft cannot give away Suse, right? [Otherwise, they can kill Novell off in one swoop and fairly soon since Novell cannot compete with Microsoft in volume, especially without free access to Windows, especially if it must pay a toll to Microsoft for every copy of a Novell distro, especially as long as Novell considers $300 million a lot of money.] So once MS has figured out how to contruct and support their own Linux (using non-Suse sources), they can GIVE AWAY a Suse-equivalent distro that is integrated with Windows MUCH BETTER than any Suse version Novell (or Red Hat or anyone else) will EVER be able to build. At that point, all Novell (and Red Hat and …) customers and potential customers have a choice: stay with inferior Novell product that they must pay for, OR get Microsoft’s free version which works excellently with Vista and is the ONLY distro guaranteed to work without a hitch with all future Windows operating systems. Tough choice?

    [ex-customer:] “Not at all. And by the way, thanks, Novell, for helping to bring Linux under the Microsoft fold and for selling us on Microsoft’s software. We can now do all our shopping at MSN.”

    [Note that Novell can’t sell 100 million copies of its second-hand-Vista-integrated distro without paying Microsoft a tidy sum I take it, and 100 million is nothing if we think devices 10 years into the future.]

    Novell is toast. Red Hat and numerous others may be toast (the latter at least have a powerful community behind them).

    It seems Microsoft has used one stone to cage one potentially very dangerous up-and-coming bird (Novell prior to entering into this agreement), further help destroy another large Linux-friendly bird (Red Hat), while providing for itself the fast track to Linux reseller domination. Additionally, the stone will give them a nice profit from investments in NOVL (after a short-lived stock inflation) and allow them to pick up more RHAT for cheap (just in case Red Hat survives, you’d want to own RHAT). That is some stone! .. a real bang for one week’s worth of Microsoft bucks.

    The same deep-pocketed NOVL investors pushing Novell management to act and get results ASAP own a lot of MSFT which is a more reliable cash cow than the U.S. Treasury and a sure swing stock as a bonus. In what way was NOVL not sacrificed to MSFT as a short-lived pump and dumper? And don’t wish to be (further) disrespectful, but I HAVE to ask for the sake of all being left behind, how golden was top management’s chute (or will it be)? Also, will Novell leadership wait even a couple of years before formally joining a Microsoft company? And wouldn’t some of this be, you know, illegal .. once proven of course?

    Sorry, but Novell distros are out of the question for me. Seeing as how Novell is now directly involved in destroying commercial Linux for everyone but for Microsoft, I suggest that anyone that is worried about commercial Linux becoming another branch of Microsoft do everything possible to sink Novell or at least give them no help while they do the deed for themselves. Also, let Novell be the only major (though not for long) distro distributor to acknowledge Microsoft intangible IP.

  32. Better that, than vista premiere. Actualy, I’m scared that SuSe won’t be free..

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