Long-time readers of this blog may remember how two years ago I sat down to lunch with Marc Fleury, then running JBoss.
Fleury was celebrating because he'd signed a re-sale agreement with Microsoft. The deal was superior to one IBM offered, he told me, in that it did not interfere with his existing business practices.
Xandros has now signed a nearly-identical deal, but many open source advocates are angry at the company over what Microsoft considers boilerplate clauses acknowledging the legitimacy of its "patent protection" deal with Novell.
The fact is that Microsoft has an extensive ecosystem of Linux partners, companies which help it fit open source and Windows together, since that is what businesses want. This language is going to appear in all such contracts, both new ones and those which are renewed.
And it will be passed along, by these vendors, to their customers. They'll consider it a benefit, a feature. In this way Microsoft hopes to make its Novell deal as viral as the GPL itself.
Think of it as a Chinese water torture strategy. Each drop by itself means nothing, but eventually you go crazy.
Stephen Walis says there is less here than meets the eye, and I agree. Xandros is a minor vendor. The Microsoft language has never been enforced, and has never met any court test.
A forum at Xandros.Com is already urging that customers vote with their feet, switching to another distribution. But as of this writing only a few dozen had responded to the accompanying poll.
The fact is that Microsoft can't be completely written out of the open source world. Too many companies run mixed environments. If we try to boycott each customer touched by this boilerplate we're going to be in a very lonely place.
That's what Microsoft is betting on.