I would not be comfortable turning Microsoft salespeople loose on my customers. They are armed to the teeth with discounts and incentives to beat any competitor. The announcement that Novell and Microsoft will work together to improve interoperability between Windows and Novell's SuSE Linux, as well as cross-promote and support one another's products strikes me as eerily like one of those movies with Christopher Lee as Dracula.
Every time you see an old Dracula film, the same fool is making a deal with DracLinux may win someday, but Novell will be found dead one morning with mysterious bite marks on its neck. to achieve eternal life, a life you know, as the viewer, is going to be awful and short. "Don't do it!" you want to shout at the screen, and so it is with this deal between the maker of Windows and the acquirer, as Novell once staked its future on UNIX, of SuSE Linux.
I'm not saying Microsoft is evil, only that it makes these interoperability deals to defeat its partner, not help them. In the 90s, when both Windows and Novell Netware were under assault by IP networks, they tried to co-exist. Microsoft started making Netware-compatible versions of its local area network management and operating system software.
At that time, on March 29, 1992, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer told The New York Times: "We continue to sell aggressively against Novell. On the other hand, it's clear to Novell and Microsoft that having Windows run well on Netware is something both our customers are going to insist on."
Today, Ballmer said: "This set of agreements will really help bridge the divide between open-source and proprietary source software." "Bridging the divide" is Novell's headline on its Web site today—Ballmer's speaking Novell's language, which is always a bad sign for the object of his rhetoric.
And that is true, but the traffic on that bridge is currently running more strongly in the direction of Linux and open-source software. Microsoft is hoping to stem the flow and, even if it doesn't succeed, it seems inevitable that Novell will be on the short side of this deal.
In 1995, just after Windows 95 was released, Novell sold the UNIX operating system it had acquired from AT&T for $360 million to Santa Cruz Operation only three years earlier for $59.5 million in SCO stock. The rationale was to focus on networking—as Microsoft was turning the aircraft carrier to run over Netscape and Netware was becoming a lame duck.
Novell's new deal with Microsoft is a time-buying move, because the only company making changes is Novell. The company's revenue has been stuck in neutral--increasing only $63 million since 2002--it's been waiting to crack the Linux nut while competition has increased. Now Oracle is coming into the market.
Microsoft, as Mary Jo Foley points out in her posting today, isn't making any moves toward the GPL, so it continues to sell its strictly licensed software while Novell opens the door for Microsoft to sell to its customers.
Christopher Lee's Dracula always showed up when the hero thought he'd really scored with a vampire chick that seemed nice enough to him at dinner. Novell seems to think it has the edge because it comes from the world Microsoft is fighting. That's never worked before.
Linux may win someday, but Novell looks like it will be found dead one morning with mysterious bite marks on its neck. But we can see that now, because we've seen this movie before.