The Patent Ploy

    November 6, 2006

Microsoft to Offer Sales Support for Novell’s Suse Linux… Huh? Did I hear that right? Yep, there it is again: Linux to work with Windows.

A lot of people are wondering what Microsoft is up to, what possible motivation drove this. I’d ask the same of Novell: lying down with the lion is not usually a good strategy for smaller animals.

Novell CEO Ronald Hovsepian explained that it’s all about you: (

The impetus for the arrangement was to make it easier for software buyers to run both Windows and Linux-based systems, Hovsepian said. “We came together to focus on giving you, our customers, the choice,” he said.

Oh, sure. I hadn’t thought of that.

Bruce Perens is skeptical and so am I. I think Novell is standing at this altar after having had a long talk with someone holding a shotgun. The language in the agreement about not suing Novell is what makes me think that: I think Microsoft is doing a “divide and conquer” plan and using patents as its tool.

Bruce Perens is on that same thought and suggests that Microsoft’s next move is to:

crack down on “unlicensed Linux”, and “unlicensed Free Software”, now that it can tell the courts that there is a Microsoft-licensed path. Or they can just passively let that threat stay there as a deterrent to anyone who would use Open Source without going through the Microsoft-approved Novell path.

Quoting Bruce again:

This entire agreement hinges around software patenting – monopolies on ideas that are burying the software industry in litigation – rather than innovation. If we’ve learned one thing from the rapid rise of Open Source, it’s that intellectual property protection – the thing that Open Source dispenses with – actually impedes innovation. And the Novell-Microsoft agremeent stands as an additional impediment.

Right. Novell is selling everyone else down the river, or at least hoping to. As Hovsepian said, it’s all about you.

All about you and your money, that is.

Previous rantings in this area:

Internet Access is not a right

Illegal Linux

Complacency and bravado

Licensed Operating Systems

*Originally published at

A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services