Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's latest may just be a good cop, bad cop act. Or he may be serious about turning his company into the world's largest patent troll.
The idea was that Microsoft's deal with Novell makes its SUSE the only "legitimate" Linux, the only Linux whose users Microsoft lawyers won't now sue for theft of its intellectual property.
But is the threat serious? Users are in an uproar but, according to Groklaw, the threat is real, at least in regards those Linux users who also use Microsoft's .Net. Such enterprises will only be able to use the "open source" aspects of Microsoft's technology if they also switch to SUSE. That would yield Novell some short-term benefits, and make it a tastier minnow for Microsoft to eat over time. (Novell stock jumped on the initial deal news, but has been falling slowly since then.)
On the other hand Pamela Jones of Groklaw writes that Ballmer's statements have essentially killed Novell. "SUSE Linux is unique in Linux distros in one respect -- it's the only one the FOSS community has now utterly repudiated, and that won't change unless Novell hits reverse." The Microsoft-Novell deal is being written out of GPL V3.0 even as I write this.
Facts are stubborn things. The SCO suit is going nowhere. Microsoft's threats seem empty in law. But that's not how lawyers think, especially not at big companies. The threat of a lawsuit, even one without merit, is very real.
What do your lawyers think?