November 4, 2006
On the 2nd of November, Microsoft and Novell announced an agreement to share some patents, cross-marketing, and collaborative development.
The deal is very recent, and it is difficult to say what exactly it includes and what consequences (if any) it will have.
From the information currently available, it seems there are multiple parts to the deal:
- Both companies will work on the compatibility between their OSes and the other company’s virtualization solution (Windows on Xen and SLE on Viridian).
- There will be a collaboration between the companies to improve the compatibility between OpenOffice.orf and the Open Office XML Format.
- Novell and Microsoft will provide each other’s customers with patent coverage for their respective products.
- Microsoft will officially recommend SuSE Linux Enterprise to their customers that will enquire about Linux options.
I find this deal not favorable for the Open Source community for many reasons.
The first reason is that Novell is legitimizing Microsoft’s claims that Linux violates some of their patents. Microsoft has never demonstrated these claims in a court, and therefore it’s possible (probable?) that those claims are baseless. Also, Red Hat provides patent protection guarantees for their customers without a similar agreement with Microsoft in place, so they are either foolish or know Microsoft’s claims are baseless.
The second reason is that Novell is helping Microsoft promoting Microsoft’s Open Office XML formats which are an attempt by Microsoft to boycott the OpenDocument Format to try to keep their monopoly on the Office Suites.
The third reason is that Novell is getting close to Microsoft, and as it happens with black holes, it is hazardous for a small company to get too close to a company as big and rich as Microsoft.
I hope this is not the beginning of the acquisition from Microsoft of Novell, even though I think this will happen in the next few years.