Novell, Re: Microsoft: "We Still Compete" - InformationWeek

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8/21/2008
06:15 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Novell, Re: Microsoft: "We Still Compete"

Much to the chagrin of some, Microsoft continues to snap up certificates from Novell that can be redeemed for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server support. So what's the source of the consternation? Is it the mere fact that Novell is "colluding" with Microsoft?

Much to the chagrin of some, Microsoft continues to snap up certificates from Novell that can be redeemed for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server support. So what's the source of the consternation? Is it the mere fact that Novell is "colluding" with Microsoft?

I asked Ian Bruce, a Novell PR director, if agreements like this means they're colluding rather than competing. He put it this way:

We still compete. This agreement is focused on building a bridge between business and development models, not removing competition in the marketplace. The partnership has been very successful and clearly meets a strong customer need. We continue to compete in a number of arenas, including the desktop, identity and security management, and systems and resource management.  At the product level, Windows Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise will continue to compete.

He went on to quote solid-sounding sales and revenue figures for 2007 and 2008, so if there are negative karmic consequences to cutting deals like this, they haven't been significant enough to hit them in the wallet.

Rhetoric about deals with the devil notwithstanding, I'm betting we're going to see more things like this in the future, not less of it. There will continue to be proprietary software (although I would imagine a good deal less of it), and there will continue to be a need to allow proprietary software and open source software to interoperate well.

There's also little question in my mind that Microsoft will not stop seeing Linux as a competitor, either. They may be more open to open source than they used to be -- in the sense of making Windows a platform that's friendlier to OSS, but they treat Linux as its own case. My guess is that they have the notion that any deals they can broker with Novell will mean, in theory, that many fewer people buying Red Hat. The latter are one of the more outspoken critics of Microsoft's Linux stance, to the point where they adamantly refused to cut any kinds of patent / cooperation deals.

Is it wrong, though, to admire both of these companies for entirely different reasons? Red Hat remains one of my favorite Linuxes (Fedora is wonderfully neat and precise), but Novell is practical enough to recognize that you probably can't beat Microsoft by simply turning your back on them -- not when Microsoft still has a good chunk of the server market. I'd be willing to bet the presence of both of these approaches, not just one or the other, will be vital.

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