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Microsoft and Novell, Working Together…Say, What?!

Tux embracing Windows This afternoon was the first I learned about what I see as a massive announcement: Microsoft agrees to collaborate with Novell to make their software interoperate with Linux.

<Here’s where we insert that classic record-needle-yanked-across-the-LP-grooves sound.>

Beg your pardon? Novell and Microsoft sharing the love? Despite the eerie feeling that something has gone horribly wrong with the space-time continuum, this makes a lot of sense if you know Ron Hovsepian at all. The first time I ever heard Ron Hovsepian speak, he was on stage before the entire North American sales force. He was brand new to Novell. I expected the usual, “I did this and I did that” kind of talk as his introduction. Instead, Ron told a story about the first customer he ever worked with in his life, and that he could still call on that customer today. Then he cited the phone number from memory. Ron’s point? It’s not about him, or anyone else in that room. It’s about serving our customers. (I liked him immediately.)

Since his time at Novell, Ron has been working to change Novell’s systems and methods to be about the customers. Throughout his steady rise to become Novell’s chief executive, that’s been his steady campaign. So it was no surprise to me when, during the press conference web cast, Ron responded to a question about how this big announcement came about by saying that he started it back in April. He called a former customer of his, now working in a senior role at Microsoft, and asked him to help him get the two companies to set aside all the old rivalries (20 years!) and do what is right for our mutual customers.

Yes, it’s a huge day for Novell, for SUSE Linux, and for open source software. And, for Microsoft. But moreso for the businesses who simply want Linux/OSS and Windows to work well together.

Expect more from me on what this is all about from the technology and community side–there is a lot more to discuss. But for now, I use this post to fulfill a promise made so long ago that it’s almost forgotten: the much-delayed post about Ron Hovsepian becoming Novell’s new CEO.


11 Responses

  1. From a splash effect standpoint, this is probably nice for Novell getting traction in the market place and driving up the stock price. From a short term business standpoint, this is probably a great deal. The stock holders and investors, who don’t really care about the idea of open source and what it really means to people, are probably tickled with the announcement.

    I can see how this would help businesses, and let’s be honest; this is what Novell really cares about.

    How does this benefit open source though? Novell claims to be an open source company. However, they plan on sharing IP with Microsoft, probably the least “friendly” competitor out there. Will that code then be GPL’ed? I doubt it. Novell, with this announcement, seem to be pulling an about face. They’re taking the fiscal route instead of sticking to their “open” promise. How will OpenOffice.org, not Novell’s OpenOffice benefit in any way to this? I can’t believe Microsoft agreed to any of this for the benefit of the open source movement which Novell claims to support ideologically.

    This reeks of investor benefit and splash effect. That, however, is not a bad thing for Novell the company. They have to have a viable business to survive. I just don’t think this will benefit open source in any way, and claiming it will, just doesn’t sit well with many people. Microsoft isn’t a bastion of ethical business. How long until they turn on Novell, just like they did with Apple the first go around, or Netscape, or any number of companies who were steam rolled with Microsoft?

  2. I’m really not sure where I stand on this.

    While I’d love better interoperability (who wouldn’t), I think there’s a danger that Microsoft only giving commercial patent indemnification to Novell customers (and to everyone provided they’re not commercial users) harms other users of Linux.

    Everyone with a vested interest in Linux is in this together. Microsoft are essentially saying “if you have to use Linux, use SUSE and we promise not to hurt you”.

    I’m not saying Novell shouldn’t be doing this, I’m just pointing out the danger and the possibility that MS end up forcing businesses to use their ‘approved Linux’. That’s not freedom.

    On the other hand, Novell could be able to push MS into getting a bit more interoperability for everyone and hopefully a bit less of a headache for everyone using FOSS.

    I’d definitely like to hear Novell’s response to the other side of the argument about this deal, and I’ll most definitely be listening to a NOA episode if you do one about this.

    But, still, I can’t decide whether this is good or bad overall. I really hope Novell made the right decision here.

  3. […] After Microsoft and Novell’s announcement that they are to start collaboration on tighter integration between Windows and (admittedly SuSE) Linux, there has been a lot of bollocks kicking around from people squealing “this will be bad“, “this will be really bad“, “oh no, it’s the end of the world as we know it“, and so on. $deity forbid two old-school rivals want to bury the hatchet and do something that’s in the best interests of both their customers. […]

  4. […] I have to say I was as shocked as anyone when word started leaking out yesterday that Novell (NOVL) and Microsoft (MSFT) were set to announce some sort of alliance.  After watching the webcast it seems to fit very well with what Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian has been all about since he came to Novell.  Ted Haeger makes that exact point in his post this morning. […]

  5. Hi Ted,

    This is all very confusing. What happens to openSuSE now??

  6. From Andy@hillhome.org‘s blog:

    “What really bothered me this morning were all the posts and articles I read that treated this news like an unwelcome religious development. Many in the open source community really do treat their devotion like a religion, instead of thinking about what makes sense from a technology or (God-forbid) business point of view.”

    Why should anyone in the open source community care about the business point of view? Aside from the projects that Novell is directly involved in and actually steer, the rest don’t care about Novell as a business. Why should they? And as far as technology, how much do you think Microsoft is really going to contribute to OSS freely? How much of this will really get back to open source projects that are unencumbered from Microsoft’s talons.

    Microsoft is a corporation with a history of unethical practices and a tendency to burn everyone they “partner” with. Beyond the OSS scope, this worries me as an actual Novell customer. As I’m posting this through a BorderManager proxy server, using an XP machine with the Novell Client, connected to NetWare servers, I wonder if Novell is going to join Netscape in the ground when all is said and done.

    From an OSS standpoint, Novell is aligning themselves with Microsoft and saying it has anything to do with open source, and in particular, the GPL. When was the last time Microsoft released any software under the GPL license? The whole thing seems to genuinely work against the scope of open source software and the idea of sharing to everyone. Theoretically, RedHat should benefit from this. Will they? Why would Microsoft or Novell do anything to benefit Red Hat?

  7. This article on Groklaw is very informative and worth a read.


    A very good summary and collection of links, particularly like this article on ZDNet.
    “Microsoft and Novell: Fox marries chicken, both move into henhouse”

    Can’t wait for the NOA on this one 😉

  8. And here I thought Novell was finally getting smart.

    Mere words cannot express just how *(&&^& stupid this is.

    Novell will get screwed again, and perhaps this time for good.

  9. I eagerly await more information on how this exactly benefits the Linux and FOSS community as a whole, and not just Novell. Fruthermore, how is this not a violation of the GPL?

    While I can understand the adoption of Linux being slowed by the possibility of patent infringement, there has yet to be any concrete evidence that there is any infringement. This partnership smacks of Novell lending credibility to patent volation claims. Will Novell end up being another EV1?

    While I can respect Ron looking out for his business partners, does this not run the risk of forking Novell from the rest of the Linux community? It’s almost as if they are biting the hand that feeds them.

  10. Novell

    What are the best sites for learning about Novell? We’ve started with these. What else should be here?
    1. Novell – Official company Web site for Novell which includes products & services, training & support, partners & communities, an…

  11. Novell+Microsoft pact facts (and gun+foot=tears)

    Help! It’s IT Blogwatch, in which everybody reacts violently to last week’s Novell/Microsoft announcement. Not to mention the list that brings tears to your humble blogwatcher’s eyes…

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