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12/22/2006
03:01 PM
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Well-Known Developer Leaves Novell Over Microsoft Deal

Jeremy Allison is leaving, apparently terming the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement a "mistake."

Jeremy Allison, a high-profile open source developer, confirmed Friday that he has resigned from Novell because of the company's controversial Linux patent deal with Microsoft.

Allison said in an interview that he officially leaves Novell on Dec. 29 and is scheduled to begin work at Google on Jan. 2. Allison declined to discuss his departure until after he leaves, citing an agreement he made with Novell. However, he confirmed that he wrote an e-mail published on Groklaw that explained the reasons behind his departure.

Allison is well known for the work he has done on Samba, which is open source, free software that enables a Linux-based file or print server to interoperate with a Microsoft Windows computer. The message published on Groklaw was originally distributed on several Novell e-mail lists. Groklaw is a blog focusing on open source-related legal issues.

In the message, Allison said the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement was a "mistake and will be damaging to Novell's success in the future." But he said the main reason behind his resignation was his belief that the deal violated the intent of the GPL license under which Linux is distributed, "which is to treat all recipients of the code equally."

Allison said the Microsoft deal has made Novell an outsider to the open source community, "and there is no positive aspect to that fact."

"Until the patent provision is revoked, we are pariahs," Allison said.

A Novell spokesman declined to comment on Allison's e-mail, but added, "We wish Jeremy the best at Google." Allison worked on the Samba portion of Novell's enterprise distribution of Linux, but his departure would have no impact on current or future development, the spokesman said. Novell has two other full-time Samba developers working on the project.

The Waltham, Mass., company has been trying unsuccessfully to repair the damage done to its credibility with many in the open source community as a result of the Microsoft deal announced last month. In the pact, Microsoft extended patent protection to customers of Novell's Suse Linux, implying that the open source operating system contained Microsoft technology.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer later fanned the flames by saying that Linux does contain Microsoft intellectual property, adding that Novell was the only Linux distribution that could offer patent protection from the software maker. Microsoft has yet to reveal in detail the technology in question.

Besides the patent agreement, the companies also agreed to work together on providing virtualization technology to run Windows and Linux on the same machine, and data center interoperability between the two platforms.

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