Thursday, November 09, 2006

Novell and Microsoft, Part 4

Yesterday evening, Ted Haeger released his latest Novell Open Audio podcast in which he puts some of the community's questions to the Novell CEO and General Counsel.

All the work that will be done between Novell and Microsoft will be for the use of Novell and Microsoft, none of that code will be given back to the community.

The GPL issue was addressed, and it seems that, since the GPL governs copying, distribution, and modification of software and not its use, and since Microsoft is making this covenant not to sue with Novell's customers and developers, that they're sidestepping the issue by simply allowing Microsoft to threaten to sue anyone who doesn't use Novell Linux.

Ron speaks of "Linux" and "community", when I find no compelling reason to believe he means anything besides "Novell SuSE Linux" and "Novell customers". Correct me if I'm wrong (Please!), but when he speaks of spreading Linux, he's speaking of spreading it as a vehicle for Novell proprietary code that's designed to lock customers into using Novell as a vendor (who is now paying royalties to Microsoft).

While denying quietly on one FAQ aimed at the community that Linux uses Microsoft patented Intellectual Property, it lets Microsoft claim loudly and publically everywhere it can that it does with impunity, which is tantamount to condoning the claim as far as I can see.

Why shouldn't this be interpreted as Novell collaborating with Microsoft in its attempt to fear everyone into using Novell's SuSE Linux, in exchange for royalties? I don't know, Novell has not addressed that.

How is this anything but monopoly-seeking maneuvering? I don't know, Novell has not addressed that.

How is this in the spirit of the Open Source community from which you draw the vast majority of your product? How are you giving anything back to us through this deal? I don't know, Novell has not addressed that.

Prove me wrong, Novell, speak to the Linux community (we are much more numerous than just your customers) and convince us why we shouldn't see you as traitors. You've yet to address us, and you owe us at least that much.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm losing patience with the word play. Either explain yourselves, or admit treason.

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Anonymous Ian said...

There's something to keep in mind, Novell has had proprietary products which run on SUSE Linux before this deal. These products have been available for years. eDirectory, for instance, has runs on SUSE and RedHat, but no other distros. I didn't hear much complaining about that before the MS deal. I'm not sure what the end game will be, but I'm sure of this much, suggesting "treason" is pretty over the top. Novell is a company, end of story. The also employ a lot of OSS developers. They do give back. However, there will always be a divide between commercial products and free products.

You can't have it both ways. If it weren't for corporate support for Linux, even if it's not 100%, you wouldn't see it being considered a viable option to Windows or Solaris.

Although, for what it's worth, I really think it would benefit Novell to completely open up eDirectory. It's the best multi master directory service stack available, even putting Active Directory in second place despite its market share lead.

11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Simón A. Ruiz said...

You're right, it's a pretty strong word; likely too strong.

What I've come to see as the thing that really irks me about this whole deal is simply that they're claiming that this move is for the community, when it's really what I consider bad for the community.

When it comes down to it, although I think there are advantages to the community for big business to see the value of Linux and get involved, I don't think that big business using Linux is the goal of Free Software.

If this creates a "Microsoft-Approved", proprietary fork of Linux, using the community's work and sidestepping the GPL by just threatening the end users who use don't use their version, then what have we gained?

Freedom is the goal of Free Software, and I see this deal simply extending the life of a proprietary software model that exists solely by manipulating it's monopoly. The goal, the way I see it, is for Freedom to be the default setting of the world's software, and this development seems to me to be at odds with that goal.

If proprietary software must exist, let it compete fairly in the markets.

2:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Using Novell products for years, I can tell you that their public relations and marketing are not their strong points. They say it might help the OSS community, but that's to be determined. What this all comes down to, in my mind, is a way to differentiate SLED to the other offerings out there. The best case scenario would be to undercut Microsoft in just the same way Microsoft did to Apple in the 80s. The more realistic idea would be to secure the Linux market and hopefully erode the footprint of Windows by offering a product which plays nice with Windows but is not Windows itself.

I agree, that's at odds with the idea of Freedom. But it really depends on how you define freedom. I could make an arguement that the GPL is not totally free, because it puts restrictions on software. I could extend that to say that the BSDs are the only true "free" operating systems.

But, it's merely semantics. This much is certain, up until this point, proprietary products have driven open source development. UNIX prompted the design on Linux based on POSIX standards. eDirectory and Active Directory prompted the open sourcing of Netscape Directory Server(Fedore/RedHat directory server), Internet Explorer prompted the open sourcing of Netscape to form Mozilla. It goes on and on. For the best software out there, licenses aside, you need that mix.

This deal shouldn't stop anyone from using what they want, or what they need. Hell, despite having a license for SLED, I'm using ubuntu. Why? It works better on my laptop and my Windows install on this dual boot setup is trashed, and I'm too lazy to fix it!

10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Simón A. Ruiz said...

Well, yeah, it's simple capitalism at work. Partnering with the monopoly will get you a spike in your market share.

This will theoretically allow Novell Linux to compete with Windows based on their merits and flaws, but then a loss for Windows is now no longer a loss for Microsoft as they get paid for whatever platform you use.

I don't really think this will keep the Linux world from chugging along just fine. I'm just not seeing the benefit back to Linux if the "Linux users" created by this alliance will be locked into being "Novell users" now, the way they used to be locked into being "Windows users", by the big dose of FUD they're receiving.

I suppose, if I'm optimistic, I can hope that the FUD wears off over time and different distros (like Ubuntu) will be able to compete on their own merits and flaws as well the way they would be able to do in a healthy market, and not be kept out of the competition based on FUD.

I see the GPL's "enforced freedom" as a useful tool to maintain the health of the free sofware ecology, though I can't deny that "enforcing freedom" does remove one freedom from the end user: the freedom to create a proprietary product using GPL'd code.

I think I can live without that freedom, though, it's not like it's removing our freedom to USE or CREATE proprietary software, just the freedom to do so using someone else's work who decided to protect that work with the GPL.

If I were creating a Free Software tool, I'd be hacked off if someone took it proprietary and got paid off my work without giving back to it.

I know what you're saying about available proprietary software driving what free software gets developed. I hope at some point the Free Software arsenal will catch up with all the little things it needs to do to be interoperable with the "default standards" of the market and have the room to be visibly innovative as opposed to using so much effort making itself more palatable for people (like me, I'll admit it) who are used to current proprietary tools.

11:26:00 AM  

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