Microsoft and Novell did, indeed, announce a collaborative partnership deal, as expected, on November 2.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer emphasized throughout his remarks during the press conference announcing the deal that Novell and Microsoft have been discussing the particulars for months.
But there's no way anyone can tell me that this deal isn't all about Oracle. It's now a Microsoft-Novell vs. Oracle-Red Hat face-off.
(Keep in mind, Red Hat is a hostile -- yet smiling -- participant in this contest.)
Still doubtful? Buried in Microsoft's Novell-collaboration press release is this maintenance services nugget:
"Microsoft will distribute coupons for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support, so that customers can benefit from the use of an interoperable version of Linux with patent coverage, as well as the collaborative work between the two companies."
Update: I had a chance to ask about the Oracle elephant, following the press conference where Microsoft announced the Novell partnership.
Bill Hilf, general manager of Microsoft's platform strategy (and Linux point-man), denied that the Oracle-Red Hat announcement had any bearing on Microsoft's partnership with Novell.
"We were on a path to get here all along," Hilf said. Microsoft wouldn't be agile enough to so quickly organize such a counter-event, Hilf joked.
Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Novell Linux, conceded a bit more:
The Red Hat-Oracle deal "might have acccelerated (our announcement with Microsoft) by a couple of days." But Novell had been talking with Microsoft since April 2006 about some type of partnership, he emphasized.
Me? I still think today's deal is still at least 99 percent about Oracle.