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Closing the Novell Story

[I have decided that this may be my last Novell-related post to this blog. I will soon return to the old format, which is broader]

We recently mentioned an E-mail which suggested that Stuart Cohen’s departure from OSDL was related to Novell. There is a now a more formal statement from InformationWeek.

Cohen angered members of the open source community last month by endorsing Novell’s agreement with Microsoft to work on interoperability between Novell’s Suse Linux and Windows. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer’s subsequent comments that Linux most likely contains Windows code didn’t help.

Education from Novell and Microsoft

Novell is certainly growing up. From being a Windows basher, for example, it has become its friend. Even the Web site was modified to reflect on this sudden change of heart. But what happens when Novell starts teaching Windows? As it stands, Novell now offers training courses that involve Windows and it does this jointly with Microsoft. Times are truly changing. The site states:

Microsoft and Novell are coming together — to help you operate better and achieve your key technical and business goals.

I wonder how this blends, if at all, with the fact that Ron Hovsepian foresees a servitude for Linux (or more specifically—Novell Linux). Novell seems to believe that Linux should be virtualised under Windows and the coupon promise from Microsoft is clearly less than meets the eye.

Novell Stories Reappear

You might wonder why I have been quiet recently. I wonder the same thing. In any event, here are some pointers to stories which have not been covered, yet.

Matt Asay’s rebuttal to the Microsoft/Novell-funded ‘study’:

My own private Microsoft-Novell survey

And never mind that Microsoft and Novell wrote the survey, and so geared it toward the results they wanted. I’m not implying nefarious intent. I’m just stating a fact: surveys and statistics tend to skew in favor of whomever writes the questions/is interpreting the results. Hence the famous phrase… Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

While one review argues that OpenSUSE 10.2 is ‘most usable Linux ever’, another strongly disagrees.

SUSE 10.2 Review

Well, what can I say about SUSE 10.2? I’m very disappointed in it. It hasn’t changed much… There are better solutions out there for novice users, and there are better solutions for experienced users as well…

Lastly, here is an informative reply from Microsoft.

Microsoft answers IP questions posed in LXer open letter

MS: Through our agreement with Novell, Microsoft is providing access to thousands of patents. As is standard with most companies in this and indeed other industries, we do not publicly list the patents that are applicable to a product or by a component.

I’ll leave personal interpretation out of this.

What’s Up and What’s Down at Novell?

From the out-in-the-wild department:

Novell Ships OpenSUSE 10.2

Created in Partnership with the Open Source Community, OpenSUSE 10.2 Provides Everything a User Needs to Get Started with Linux

Highlighted (using bold fonts) is a series of words that could raise one’s brow.

Ubuntu Linux is once again victorious:

openSUSE 10.2 GA / Linux Mint 2.0

Looking at 10.2 and asking if it is ready as Enterprise Desktop. Then realizing that is the wrong question for the computer at hand, and installing Linux Mint 2.0.

On the financial front:

Novell Linux push fails to cover NetWare losses

The Waltham, Massachusetts-based software vendor’s fourth quarter revenue was about $6m shy of analysts’ estimates, which was never likely to keep Wall Street happy. Announcing that the company expected revenue to be “flat or near flat” at $945m to $975m in 2007 was the double-whammy that pushed the company’s share price down to $5.70, its lowest price since March 2005.

On the issue of ‘standards’ which Novell helps promote:

A cathedral of formats or a castle of cards?

ECMA has strong ties with Microsoft, and the very philosophy of the ECMA is to acknowledge existing technologies and call them a standard. This view is quite opposed to the one of the OASIS consortium, because the consortium does try to design specifications based on consensus, plausible engineering decisions and not on the fait accompli.

The FUD Has Only Just Begun

It would be foolish, if not downright naive, to assume that Novell can regain its positive image from the Free software community. As time goes by, Novell ties itself to more actions which lead to backlash. It is clear that there is no going back now. If anything, the resentment may lead to greater distance between the company and the community that used to cherish it. This is better exemplified by this article from InformationWeek.

With the controversy still alive and Novell still in a fight for its life, there’s no reason to expect Hovsepian will get too comfortable in the months ahead.

If you thought that the patent threats — however baseless — are actually behind because Steve Ballmer has not spoken for a while, think again.

The irony of the GPL is that Microsoft is not bound by it, and the only entities that can be harmed by it are those who benefit from it – open source vendors. Enforcing the GPL would mean that Novell, and any other Linux vendor who agrees to Microsoft’s terms, could be forced to stop distributing Linux – which is just what Microsoft wants.

I opine that we are yet to see another wave of attacks. The tighter the squeeze that GNU/Linux applies, the less ethical Microsoft will become in its exploitation of Novell (more latterly OpenXML servitude). This follows a destructive and self-serving path, e.g. ‘interoperability’ bargaining card, neglect of Hula and so forth.

Novell’s Impact on the Server Room

Yom Yager, a Mac-oriented writer, reckons that Novell’s deal may also punish Apple and have a negative effects on widespread interoperability and heterogeneity in the server room.

Microsoft has intentionally rendered unsafe all but one path to heterogeneity — that being the use of Novell’s SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server) in networks with Windows. By immunising Novell against future intellectual property actions, Microsoft has tacitly notified other players in commercialised open source that Microsoft sets the rules for Windows interoperability from now on.

The potential fallout of Microvell is enormous. I’ll grant that I may be overreacting, but I’m hearing voices in the wind that Microvell has the potential and intent to force serious changes in the market for non-Windows commercial system software. I have two major concerns. The first is what I see as Microsoft taking aim at Apple through Microvell. The second, which I address here, involves Advanced Server for Unix.

As a quick reminder, the formats war where Novell assists Microsoft may also ‘punish’ Mac users. If I were a Mac user, I would certainly take offence in Novell’s selfish move.

Novell’s Changing Mind (Microsoft Obedience)

Do you still remember Novell’s self censorship? They cannot deny the fact that they were ‘cleaning up’ all Web site material which contains less than flattery about Windows? Yes, they pulled these down just as they abandoned their open Source competitor to Microsoft Exchange Server, among other things.

It is rather hard to believe that Novell’s identity was altogether different before they opted for Microsoft servitude. Have a look at this old ‘advertisement’.

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