Interoperability Is Microsoft Novell Partnership Focus

Despite the fact that the Nov. 2 announcement of an agreement between Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., and Novell Inc. of Provo, Utah, on a new joint venture has sparked surprise for industry observers, many agree, at least initially, that the partnership will help those shops that run a mixture of Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems.

"Coming from our perspective, we see nothing but good things coming from it for our government clients," said John Weathersby, executive director of the Open Source Software Institute of Hattiesburg, Miss. "I hope this moves us all towards interoperability. For anyone who runs a mix of Microsoft Windows and Linux, especially SUSE Linux, this is good news. It will make it easier for customers to manage these environments," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a conference call during the presentation.

The two companies will also work jointly on developing software to make the two OS'es play more nicely with one another, initially focusing on virtualization, asset management and document formats, according to Ballmer. In the field of document sharing, for instance, Novell agreed to add Microsoft Office's Open XML format within the Open Office open-source office suite, available on the SUSE distribution. Currently, Open Office uses the Open Document Format, another Extensible Markup Language-based format. Microsoft has also agreed to not hold users liable for any patent infringements against Microsoft that may be inherent in the open-source portions of SUSE Linux Enterprise.

Although Weathersby voiced concern over the fact that the patent protection extended only to Novell's distribution and not to the open-source world in general, he expressed optimism about the arrangement overall. "I think this represents one more step in the maturing of our marketplace," Weathersby said.

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Not that I like to quote Dvorak, but I think he's right this time (for once):

I think something is up, and it was probably triggered by Larry Ellison's announcement at the recent Oracle OpenWorld event that his company would sell support services for Red Hat Linux. I suspect that the big enterprise players are each going to jump on one of the various Linux boats and start a software war.,1895,2052320,00.asp

What's really going on here is that Linux is steadily gaining popularity in the corporate world, and even MS cannot resist the pressure any longer. MS is not doing anyone any favors, and this wasn't voluntary.

Although I do believe that cooperation between Microsoft and Novell will help out end users a bit, Ballmer's statements the day after the Microsoft-Novell agreement were strongly pushing the "Patent Lawsuit" spectre to the front, implying that users of other Linuxes might possibly be sued by Microsoft and others.

Novell's SUSE Linux customers are the only Linux vendors that have any assurance that Microsoft won't sue for patent infringement
The distributors of other versions of Linux cannot assure their customers that Microsoft won't sue for patent infringement. "If a customer says, 'Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?' Essentially, If you're using non-SUSE Linux, then I'd say the answer is yes,"
I see nothing new from Microsoft, except that they have a piece of paper and a little example of how other good little Linux vendors and users should behave (i.e. get a patent license agreement from Microsoft).

Yeah and sadly, everyone who gets an agreement from Microsoft, such as Novell, is potentially worsening the situation by creating a precedent.
I keep waiting for MS to invent the anti-GPL, i.e. a license where if you use their patented technology, whatever program you use the code in must also be included under some similar license. I hope this is just a paranoid thought, but Microsoft have preached endlessly about the 'dangerous, viral-nature' of the GPL for some time, and how it 'destroys innovation' (buying a company that invented a product you want to sell is innovation).