Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

By Josiah Josiah | Posted at 0:20

Is Novell's deal with Microsoft ultimately something that boils down to a corporate agreement to restrict the free flow of information and understanding about Linux? Or, perhaps, could it be that this agreement will actually serve the purpose of getting Linux out to more users? Those are the questions Josiah Ritchie seeks to consider and come up with answers to.

The Microsoft-Novell deal has people blood pumping big time. The deal does present a danger to the community, but I would like you to think for a second about what that danger really is. Let's redirect our focus from a withdrawal from Novell to consider our other options. If there is a better way to advance FOSS ideals, not damaging our own community, don't we owe it to the community to examine it?

The debate, ultimately, is about the freedom of information; there is nothing more at risk in this deal. The freedom of information is the very foundation of open source ideals so we much evaluate this deal from that perspective. With that in mind, let's develop a few diagnastic questions.

Will the fact that Novell has new information in its hands previously locked up mean that information is more free? Novell certainly seems to be arguing a yes; they say will share what they can with the community as a whole. I'd agrue that the answer to this question is ultimately irrelevant to the freedom of information. However, time only will tell what benefits may be given.

Meanwhile, the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) force of MS marketing has committed to flood the market with pro-Novell advertising that will muddy the view of true freedom, a very real danger to that freedom. Their support for Novell may derail the conversation about free software (a form of information) that currently surrounds the Open Source movement. Will this mean that open source software will be used by more people who don't appreciate its freedom than ever before? There is no doubt that it will, but here is an opportunity.

What remains to be seen is if the open source movement will reject this relationship or use it as an opportunity to educate new, and perhaps accidental, members about the ideal of freedom we so love.

This is an opportunity to extend the open source ideals to a new demographic on the tails of MS marketing. If we withdraw ourselves from Novell, we lose the chance of sharing the great ideals that hold the open source movement together with a whole new group of people, one that is bound to be significant and represent a potentially large force in open source support.

Also, if we withdraw from Novell, we loose a lot of great friends of the community, such as Aaron Bockover and Nat Friedman, who are doing great work on the Banshee and Beagle respectively. Great guys like Jeremy Allison, of SAMBA fame, and many others that work on a variety of project would also be lost to us. These leaders of our community would be adversely affected. Do we really want to “shoot our wounded”? They have much more to give, especially with this information behind them.

Finally, we all know that the threat and process of a lawsuit can be damage enough, whether there is grounds for the suit or not. Simply consider the protection money the SCO folks drummed up in the far fetched case they tried on us. Signing an agreement, such as Novell has, is not an admission, it is a protection for its customers from baseless threats much like Novell provided from SCO in the past. Too bad they couldn't do it for the whole FOSS community or Linux in general, but that would have been a bit much to ask.

I submit that we have a unique opportunity to educate Microsoft users who will be encouraged to switch by Microsoft themselves to Novell and will then have the skill set to go to any distro they like. If they choose to stay with Novell, great! We have gained another friend and user in the Linux community. If they choose to dig deeper and really understand what makes this community tick, why people are willing to give of their own time and skills freely to advance it, then we have gained an intellectual neighbor. Open Source ideals will be advanced through sharing, not being grumpy and pushing outsiders away.

Let FOSS do the embracing this time and beat MS at its own game, again!

Josiah Ritchie is an IT missionary with Fellowship International Mission. He has worked with Linux for the last 8 years and been privileged to learn about the importance of the freedom of information as he learned the beauty of the Linux computing platform. His website is

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

microsoft has a history of stealing features and destroying anything in it's way-why would the suddenly play nice

Posted by Anonymous - Nov 12, 2006 | 1:30

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Learn who really M$ is

Posted by froggy - Nov 12, 2006 | 5:06

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

There was a good article in I, Cringely about this that you might be interested in:

Although I should note that I've seen lots of stories about the deal and none of them have really explained what the deal has been. Is there a press release somewhere I can look at?

Posted by Ciaran - Nov 10, 2006 | 13:13

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

You might benefit from this FAQ by Novell. You still have to weigh whether you believe them, but this is simply their side.

Thanks for the Cringely link.

Posted by Josiah Ritchie - Nov 10, 2006 | 13:51

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Thanks for the link, but I'm talking on a more basic level than that… simply put, I hadn't even known of a Novell/Microsoft deal until 1-2 days ago, and I'm at a loss for working out exactly what the deal was, which the FAQ doesn't really seem to explain either. It answers questions about the deal but not what the deal actually is, as far as I can tell.

That's why I asked about whether there was a press release or anything, heh.

Posted by Ciaran - Nov 10, 2006 | 14:06

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Perhaps this is more what you're looking for?

Posted by Josiah Ritchie - Nov 10, 2006 | 14:12

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?
Posted by Josiah Ritchie - Nov 10, 2006 | 16:26

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Not a problem really…let Novell, Microsoft, Apple, and so forth continue to make fools out of themselves. The OpenSource Community will be around for a long, very long time…

Posted by Treeorc - Nov 11, 2006 | 4:20

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Not to belittle the entire “thing” but IMHO it is pretty apparent what MS is trying to do; Create MSLinux. In turn they would solve alot of their problems.

1. Improved security
2. Give them a plaform to sell “their” SW on.
3. Pull an Apple. Meaning slap their Gui onto some proven FOSS.

History repeats itself. Jobs goes to Xerox and “grabs hold” of the gui and the mouse. Which in turn is followed by Bill copying the copier and somehow get rich from it.

Thanks, I got Vectorlinux (et al) so I”m fine.

Posted by Mark - Nov 13, 2006 | 23:13

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

In the past, Microsoft had a monopoly with Windows and every vendor that made a deal with Microsoft had their software crippled by Microsoft dirty tricks in the Windows code. Now people can avoid Microsoft and their dirty tricks by using Linux. Open source is the new paradigm and here to stay.

Posted by Joel - Nov 15, 2006 | 20:50

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Both Novell and MS want to keep their Business Clients who use Linux and MS Products. And Virtualisation is Going Ahead.

Posted by samc - Nov 16, 2006 | 19:41

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

“Signing an agreement, such as Novell has, is not an admission, it is a protection for its customers from baseless threats much like Novell provided from SCO in the past.”

I've heard this many times, and it originated with Novell, but I'm still waiting for someone to give me a single reason why their actions would not be admissable as evidence in a court case. More relevantly, why can't Microsoft now tell Red Hat customers that Linux infringes on Microsoft's IP, and use Novell's actions as support? OJ Simpson said he is looking for the real killer. It's their actions that matter.

Posted by lmf - Nov 17, 2006 | 15:52

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

Well, i think, ms tries to geht the kernel. Either to “use” it in there own projects, or later: to get the “main” workers of the kernel. Well, but another thing to consider is: Did sou realy think: Linux is for ever, for free? i tracked some “open source” projects a long time.. most of them switched to a firm.. closed the projects, or make it semi commercial and later closed source… well, thats all about money in these world …

Posted by Q-efx - Nov 17, 2006 | 16:43

Free as is Freedom

Nice video that sums it up:

Posted by harry tuttle - Nov 22, 2006 | 10:58

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?

It's simple, folks. M$ is releasing Vista, which will require yet another round of hardware updates. To keep corporations from looking for cheaper alternatives, M$ is going to try creating a level of FUD like they never have before. Using Novell's implied admission of guilt on IP transgressions, M$ is gonna sue the asses offa Red Hat, IBM, and anyone else they feel would improve their stance. M$ has certainly got the money to bury virtually anyone except maybe IBM with aggressive and overwhelming amounts of legal tactics (and even IBM doesn't want to spend THAT much on legal bills after having already done so with SCO). The ultimate idea of this is to scare corporations from building cheaper solutions on a platform with “an uncertain future.” Sadly, with our effed-up government and legal process it may well work…

Posted by CaptainBrowncoat - Nov 17, 2006 | 20:41

Re: Novell and Microsoft: Working for or against Linux?


I think you are confusing freeware and open source. If it's released under the GPL, it can't be closed. If you include other GPL code in your program, you can't go closed source. Even in cases where you write all the code yourself, you can close the project, but others can take a previous release and fork it. True, some companies say they are releasing “open source” software, but they just mean freeware or something with a non-standard license.

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