Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

Summary: Microsoft still has something to hide from the open source community, and something to hold over its head.

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Glyn Moody's tweet said it best. "Attachmate got the carcass after Microsoft's mates ripped out the juicy stuff.

As our own Mary Jo Foley writes, the sale of Novell to Attachmate for a reported price of $2.2 billion is Microsoft's doing.

A sizable hunk of that, $450 million, is coming from a consortium Microsoft itself organized called CPTN Holdings LLC, which doesn't even have a Web site.

Novell has been trying to engineer a deal to sell itself for some time. I wrote about it in September. While in Germany I heard rumors that VMWare would be the buyer.

Attachmate is built around legacy systems, not tomorrow's anything. But it is backed by experienced investment bankers. It's also based in Seattle. Its press release indicates it will run SUSE and Novell separately, meaning Novell is out of the Linux business.

What appears to have happened is that Novell put itself up for auction, its investment bankers demanded a price in excess of what the market priced it at, and Microsoft had to make something happen in order to protect its own interest in Novell's copyright of Unix and its claimed patent rights, which Novell acknowledged in a five-year deal back in 2006.

It's the specifics of that deal, and the copyrights, that Microsoft had to keep out of rivals' hands. Having that deal, and those copyrights, in the hands of a rival like VMWare could have been disastrous.

Placing them in CPTN accomplishes just part of the goal. Having the rest in friendly hands, a privately-held firm based close to Redmond, and at a price that takes out Novell's investment bankers at a profit, took time to arrange.

What does this mean for Linux? Nothing changes. Microsoft still claims to control it. The details remain hidden from view. Which means Microsoft still has something to hide from the open source community, and something to hold over its head.

UPDATE: Larry Dignan asks more burning questions at Behind the Lines.

UPDATE: CNET's Stephen Shankland has now seen the regulatory filing and says 882 patents are going to CPTN Holdings for the $450 million in this deal.

Speculation: It's very possible Microsoft had an option to arrange the sale of the company under the 2006 agreement, subject to conditions like beating any other offer.


Topics: Open Source, Microsoft, Software

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17 comments
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  • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

    Say good-bye to Novell, everyone. A long and impressive run, but now, it's just buzzard pickin's. How ignominious...
    Den2010
    • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

      @dbarr@... Agreed. I'm old enough to remember when Ray Noorda ruled our world. Good times.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

        @DanaBlankenhorn - you appear to have rose tinted glasses on - Netware was a bloody nightmare to install, configure, operate and extend.

        Be glad they're gone.
        bitcrazed
      • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

        @DanaBlankenhorn
        It has been a long slow slide since he left. Now that guy understood what being a channel partner means!!
        mswift@...
      • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

        @bitcrazed - Netware was a bloody nightmare

        You've got the brown tinted glasses on then. Netware, especially by the time they got to 4.11, was a breeze to install and their Directory Services, out long before AD, is a great management tool. Was then, is now. Long before MS started advertising servers up for 99.999% of the time we had Netware servers that stayed up for near 2 years. Usually that count only got reset because of a power outage or scheduled maintenance or an upgrade.
        boomchuck1
  • Sad day indeed

    Netware is still leaps and bounds over Windows for pure file and print sharing. It's NDS had features back in the 90's that AD is only getting now.

    Sad that they lost out to the garbage from Microsoft.
    itguy08
    • "getting now"???

      sorry, Active Directory STILL runs over domains, and depends on NetBIOS. It's 30 year old technology with a thin veneer of Novell inspired modernity.
      djsmith_1998@...
  • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

    So, Dana, [b][i]"[Novell's] investment bankers demanded a price in excess of what the market priced it at"[/b][/i] and yet you see this as Microsoft asserting it's "control" over Novell?

    No. Sorry, this was Microsoft acting responsibly in its and its shareholders' best interests by reacting to Novell's news and securing rights to the IP that is relevant to its business.
    bitcrazed
    • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

      @bitcrazed That's another way of saying it. Microsoft did this in its own self-interest.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

        @DanaBlankenhorn - Uh... exactly what for-profit business *doesn't* make decisions that are in it's own self-interest? And don't even think of saying Apple, everything Apple does is in it's own self-interest.
        PollyProteus
  • Why has Google been AWOL?

    In the last year both Sun Microsystems and Novell have fallen into the hands of the most vociferous enemies of the FOSS movement. The cost to Google to acquire these two companies would have been a drop in the bucket. The grief will now flow like a river. An ancillary to "do no evil" is "prevent evil from being done". Google (along with all advocates of FOSS) has failed, and now we will all reap the bitter rewards.
    sismoc
    • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

      @sismoc You mean there's a Good Samaritan duty in business law? Who knew?
      DanaBlankenhorn
    • Why is Google AWOL?

      @sismoc It is simple, Eric Schmidt...
      htotten
  • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

    We are back to a one company having total control of the industry.
    As a free and open operating system, Unix/Linux is dead. Period!
    Don't think so? Just watch what and how MS does it..
    dragracer2@...
    • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

      @dragracer2@... We will watch and see, but I don't think Microsoft will act as Oracle has.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • Linux is NOT threatened in any legal way.

    The 1994 USL-Regents of UCal Settlement Agreement basically declared all of the "UNIX" code which existed at that time to be in the Public Domain. To the extent that Linux is "Unix-like", it is derivative of Public Domain code; or written from directly from specifications (without copying in Copyrighted code "owned" by someone else); or the original owner has re-licensed their "proprietary" code under the GPL.

    If you're a RESPONSIBLE journalist, you can't say that Microsoft "has something to hold over the head" of Linux unless, and until, they file a lawsuit with cause and specificity. It appears that every bit of Novell code which Novell has contributed to Linux has been licensed under the GPL; a new owner cannot renege on the license terms which Novell has already granted.

    Unlike the contorted, semi-proprietary license which gave Java code to Sun (the Corporation), the GPL gives code to everybody. Micosoft's new sock-puppet almost certainly has NOTHING to threaten Linux, although badly licensed software (e.g., "mono") certainly <b>is under a could of uncertainty. Please don't confuse Linux with widely used computer software under which is licensed by VASTLY weaker licensing terms (MYSQL(tm), Java(tm), and etc.)

    You become a Microsoft "tool", in the worst way, by spreading such FUD.
    Rick S._z
    • RE: Novell sale shows its control by Microsoft

      @Rick S._z </b> I'm no more pro-Microsoft here than I was anti-Microsoft the other day. I'm a journalist noting what is happening, and considering what it might mean.
      DanaBlankenhorn