Questions I'd like to see asked about the Microsoft-Novell deal

Summary:Microsoft and Novell are touting the results of a new, paid-for study on the customer impact of the November 2 interoperability deal forged by the companies. But there are other survey questions I feel the researchers could have and should have posed that would have been far more telling about how customers running both Windows and Linux really see the deal.

Microsoft and Novell are touting the results of a new survey (paid for by Microsoft and Novell) that found 200 IT managers to be largely in favor of the interoperability deal announced on November 2 by the two software vendors.

“The results of this independent research show the majority of approval numbers over 80 and 90 percent," according to Novell's Vice President of Global Strategic Alliances, Susan Heystee, who is quoted in the press release outlining the findings of the study, which was conducted by market researchers at Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB) Associates Inc.

The questions asked as part of this study were about as open-ended and wishy-washy as you could get. Researchers asked customers deploying a mix of Windows, SuSE Linux and Red Hat Linux whether they were in favor of more vendor interoperability. They asked customers if they believed it would be helpful if Microsoft worked more closely with Linux vendors. They asked whether they approved of the Microsoft-Novell collaboration. And they questioned whether users "take responsibility for the intellectual property in the products they ship."

The only question on PSB's list that I found remotely interesting was whether users would be any more likely to buy SuSE Linux as a result of the Microsoft-Novell deal. Sixty-nine percent said yes. (I'm actually surprised this number isn't higher.)

I'm not sure if PSB shared its full list of questions. But there are other questions I feel the researchers could have and should have posed that would have been far more telling about how customers running both Windows and Linux really see the Microsoft-Novell deal.

On my suggested survey-question list:

* Do you have any more peace of mind regarding IP protection, given Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's claims shortly after signing the deal with Novell that Microsoft believes Linux infringes on Microsoft intellectual property?

* Are you planning to make use of the Microsoft Office-OpenOffice interoperability tools and technologies that Microsoft and Novell plan to provide?

* Do you have any idea why Novell is paying Microsoft $40 million as part of the recently announced collaboration agreement? Does your understanding (or lack thereof) regarding this payment affect the way you perceive the deal between the companies?

* Do you believe other Linux vendors should enter into similar pacts with Microsoft? If so, why, and if not, why not?

What else should the researchers at PSB have asked customers about the Microsoft-Novell deal?

Topics: Microsoft


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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