Microsoft-Novell, agreement on disagreement
Redmond (USA) – Very hot days for Microsoft and Novell: shortly after a historic agreement that brings the two companies and consequently the Windows and Linux worlds closer together, the two companies launch into an exchange of “courtesies” that is raising a lot of attention.
He has thought about setting fire to the powders in recent days Steve Ballmer , CEO of Microsoft, who in a public speech said: “Anyone who has Linux in their data centers today has some sort of non-obvious budgetary responsibility”, and to eWeek he also said things like: “If a customer comes to us and he asks us: Do I have any responsibility for the use of your patents? The answer I would say is yes, if you are using non-SUSE Linux ”, ie not manufactured by Novell. Phrases read by everyone as a kind of warning . In other words: anyone who does not use Microsoft products or Novell’s Linux cannot have guarantees that the software they use will not end up under the shadow of a patent infringement complaint with consequent financial damages.
A joke, perhaps linked, as Ars Technica claims, to Microsoft’s attempt to push Linux customers to switch to Novell and, at the same time, to put pressure on competitors to choose to enter into agreements with Microsoft similar to those signed by Novell. A message probably also addressed to Red Hat, the largest of the competing Linux distributors, which however has a history and a relationship with the open source community that make it extremely difficult for it to compromise with the Redmond giant.
Be that as it may, Ballmer’s joke was taken very seriously by the open source community, already in arms to contest the Novell-Microsoft agreement. To the point that Novell itself could not help but do its utmost in a public reply to Ballmer with the emblematic title: “Novell’s open letter to the community”.
In the letter Ron Hovsepian, CEO of Novell (pictured with Ballmer), makes it clear that: “We disagree with recent statements from Microsoft on the Linux and patent front. And it is important to note that our agreement with Microsoft in no way represents an acknowledgment that Linux infringes any of Microsoft’s intellectual property. ” Hovsepian, which unlike Microsoft needs to keep open all relations with the open source world on which the bulk of its business depends, concludes the letter “reminding the community of Novell’s commitment to supporting the interests of Linux and ‘open source and to create a free and open innovation environment ”.
At this point, within a few hours Microsoft decided to rush to the aid of the new partner, publishing an unsigned statement on its website which states that “Microsoft and Novell agree not to agree that certain open source offers may infringe Microsoft patents and that certain Microsoft offerings may infringe Novell patents. The agreement between the two companies consists of a possible solution to these problems for customers, and does not require an agreement between the two companies on the violation front ”.
Not only. “We at Microsoft – reads the note – respect Novell’s point of view on the patent issue, even if we respectfully take a different position. Novell is absolutely true by explaining that it has not admitted or disclosed any patent problems in adopting the Patent Collaboration Agreement. At Microsoft we carried out our patent portfolio analyzes and concluded that it was important to create patent protection for customers of these products. We are gratified that such a solution has been adopted ”.
Microsoft emphasizes the content of the agreement, which as known also provides for an important exchange of money, underlining that it will serve to “improve interoperability between Windows and Linux and form an intellectual property bridge between proprietary software and open source software” .
Are you all right then? The Register comments on a tension between the two companies that will undoubtedly have reverberations in the open source community. Community that in the meantime sifts the words of Eben Moglen (pictured), who is not only a celebrated lecturer at Columbia Law School, but also the director and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center in New York. Moglen in these hours, in fact, predicts that “either Red Hat customers will switch to Novell, to feel safe (from legal troubles, ed.), Or Red Hat will be forced to sign an agreement with Microsoft”.
Moglen argues that the agreement between the two companies “dodges” the current version of the open license par excellence, the GPL, so much so that it is necessary as soon as possible close the hole in the license, which Moglen himself is working on together with other experts. An in-depth study on this front was published by The Register.