Red Hat moved quickly on Friday to pour cold water on Microsoft's partnership with Novell.
It published a response on its website within hours of the agreement between Microsoft and Novell, proclaiming that the deal was a victory for Linux, rather than just Novell itself. Red Hat also distanced itself from the possibility that it might strike a similar deal with Microsoft.
On Thursday evening, Microsoft struck an alliance with Novell, saying it would promote Novell's Suse Linux portfolio for businesses that wanted a mixed Microsoft/open-source environment. The two companies are also due to work together on virtualisation, web services and open document formats.
"[The MS/Novell announcement] means Linux has won... Open source innovation delivers better software and better value," Red Hat's response said. "Openly defined standards create interoperability everyone can implement. It doesn't require a deal between two companies."
Answering the question of whether it considered a similar patent deal with Microsoft, Red Hat answered, "An innovation tax is unthinkable. Free and open source software provides the necessary environment for true innovation."
Red Hat has experienced a tough week with the Microsoft/Novell announcement following hot on the heels of Oracle's Linux launch, which will see Oracle selling support to Red Hat's customers and also offering its own free clone of the open-source operating system.
Others industry watchers were concerned about the Microsoft/Novell alliance. Eben Moglen, the attorney for the Free Software Foundation, which oversees the Linux licence, told ZDNet UK's sister site News.com that the deal could conflict with a provision in the GPL.
Moglen said, "If you make an agreement which requires you to pay a royalty to anyone for the right to distribute GPL software, you may not distribute it under the GPL." Whether the partnership precludes Novell from distributing Linux depends on the precise terms of its agreement with Microsoft, Moglen said.
Bruce Perens, creator of the Open Source Definition, had a similar take.
"One of the questions yet to be settled is whether Novell will violate the GPL, the licence of the Linux kernel and other important software, by offering patent protection that is exclusive to Novell customers," wrote Perens in a blog posting.
Legal IT website Groklaw was even more cynical.
"Excuse me while I go throw up," wrote Groklaw's founder Pamela Jones. "I gather Microsoft no longer thinks Linux is a cancer, or communism. Now it just wants a patent royalty from it. Wasn't that kinda SCO's dream at first?"
Jones continued, "I hate to break it to Ballmer, but Suse Linux is GPL code, which the two parties may find puts a little pebble in the shoe of this alliance."
Chris Papayianni, Novell's general manager for Europe, wasn't able to comment on the claims that Novell risks violating the GPL.
Papayianni did claim that the deal would give Novell a significant boost in the UK marketplace.
"We're looking to expand the footprint of Linux, through this deal with Microsoft," said Papayianni. "It will allow very strong interoperability with the Windows environment."
Papayianni added that the deal will give Novell a competitive advantage against other Linux vendors. "Our customers want better consolidation of server usage. One UK customer has huge power bills for his data centre. Fewer servers need less power."
"This makes us very strong in the data centre market, and gives us a powerful differentiator."