Novell-Microsoft: How many times can you sell your soul?

Novell-Microsoft: How many times can you sell your soul?

Summary: 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.


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.

Topic: Enterprise Software

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  • It's not like Novell lost $300.5 million ...

    ... on the sale of its USL assets (including UnixWare) to SCO for $59.5 million. Why Novell started selling off perpetual UNIX licenses is not entirely clear but after paying $360 million to AT&T, Novell sold its first perpetual license to Sun for about $200 million. (Sun, as the co-author of SVR4 is in a unique position here.) It then sold licenses to IBM, HP, and Compaq -- and just about everyone else who was tired or paying per-seat licensing fees to AT&T with every UNIX box it sold.

    SCO was the only player of any size left when Novell sold them what was left. Whether Novell actually sold SCO the SVR4 (and UnixWare) code-base or just sold them perpetual licenses, and the right to remarket them, is still being litigated in court. IMO, novell's future lies in who really owns the UNIX SVR4 code-base -- Novell or the company who ends up acquiring SCO.
    M Wagner
    • It may have lost more

      Marc, you're only looking at the revenue side of the equation. In
      those few years it owned UNIX it spent money, too. The net may
      have been a loss of much more than $300 million, but the real
      point is that they have gotten in and out of the OS business before,
      following the same trajectory with regards Microsoft.

      The SVR4 question is an interesting one. It doesn't look like a
      growth business, only a litigation-based one.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • It's all about MONO, and Microsoft has the right to terminate

    I think it's all about Mono, Novell's sucky ".Net on Linux" thing. Novell needs Microsoft's permission to use proprietary .Net 'IP' within Mono to make it reasonably functional and capable of implementing .Net on Linux.

    But MS has Novell bent over with their pants down: MS is free to TERMINATE THE AGREEMENT at any time MS wants to. So after Novell and its customers implement big projects using Microsoft-IP-crippled "Mono" stuff, MS has the right to pull the rug out from under Novell anytime like they like, and force the customers to switch to Windoze Servers.

    Mono is a disease, and Miguel is a tool of a criminal Monopolist. After it gets rebuilt with proprietary MS stuff inside, if you're STUPID enough to build any software of value on this toolkit you're obviously giving MS the right to do anything they want to your system.

    I had Mono when I was a child. It felt really terrible for a few days, but I eventually *GOT RID OF IT* and then I felt much better.

    Miguel is a much smarter programmer than I am, but he is NOT a friend of free software anymore. He's merely a tool for Microsoft.
    Rick S._z
  • I also wonder about Novell vs. SCOX

    Hmmm, might Novell's motion to have Caldera's assets put under Court protection (before Caldera/"The SCO Group" spends all of Novell's money) magically get withdrawn or mis-argued?

    Their now partners in attempting to proprietize Linux and give their licensed versions "legal protection" over other Distros.

    SUSE was a nice company. FSCK Novell and the horse they came in on.
    Rick S._z
    • Poor SuSE

      I bet they are turning over in there 486's
  • Remember the coupons.

    Microsoft knows that Linux is not going away anytime soon. Too many organizations with Unix which will not move to Microsoft in a single bound.
    (As we know, Linux is not a direct Microsoft competitor.)

    There are two commercial Linuxes, Red Hat and SuSE. There was a danger of SuSE disappearing, particularly if another company like Ubuntu arose to split the non-Red Hat market.

    Microsoft does not want to have a Linux monopolist. Has experience of what a monopolist can do.

    So Microsoft will help spend other people's money to keep SuSE alive. And be sure that the Linux to Windows conversion tools work smoothly.
    Anton Philidor
  • novell/microsoft

    hard to understand what the problem is when a reliable open source company is working to expand its platform and acceptance with a larger audience with an acknowledged industry leader..if we spent more time working together and resisted internicen warfare it would help innovation
  • Great for both the companies and us consumers

    This announcement is a win-win for the IT industry and consumers because it will provide greater choice and peace of mind. We will have more choices in the end and we can even deploy the best of open source and proprietary software side-by-side - I think that is a good deal. We can have peace of mind with respect to liabilities resulting from intellectual property protections as well.
    • no it doesn't

      Show me one business case which will be altered by this.
  • Small business needs all the help we can get!

    As the founder of an IT small business cooperative organization, I would like to applaud the Microsoft/Novell deal as the type of deal that will help small business owners in their pursuit of new opportunities utilizing "supported" software solutions for thier clients.

    Both Novell and Microsoft have provided excellent support and resources for small IT businesses and allowed these small businesses to compete with larger companies through their partner programs. I believe that this deal will help small businesses that develop low cost Linux based solutions by providing new avenues to corporate customers for Linux based solutions that won't be perceived as "risky" open source solutions.

    The industry has battled over the benefits of Linux for years. Small companies have had no real support from any major vendor in the past for Linux based solutions and when bid on proposals, most have been lost to larger companies with a "platform" based solution. This Microsoft/Novell deal gives the small IT business owner the opportunity to now offer customers a new platform based solution with the backing of two major corporations.

    Let's look at the positive sides of a deal like this and see the real benefits to small business owners.
    • Small business small b*lls

      I run a small business, but I converted to Fedora Core jsut about the time it was available from RedHat.

      Do I regret it? No.

      My business has benefited from Linux far more than if it was using Microsoft products.

      I don't need to worry about security or licencing at all.

      I can develop great software and sell it to large companies like Sony and Ericsson and they are happy with the solutions.

      I am developing a niche market for Linux solutions and selling them for good profit.

      I use open-source exclusively for development and sell both open source and proprietry products.

      I have a turn over close to ?100k and rising which isn't bad for a one man operation.

      I couldn't go back to using Windows because my business would all but cease.

      If I need support I turn to Google. The answers are pretty much always there.

      I wouldn't even contemplate using SuSE.
      Not because of the deal with Microsoft but because there are better distros like Fedora or Ubuntu.

      Check them out before you look at Vista.
      They really are free and the support is there for you also for free.
      Ubuntu comes as a Live CD so you can test it out on our hardware _before_ you install and browse the web, check your email and play games during the install.
      This is all good stuff and no agreement with Microsoft will make any difference.