Novell and Microsoft: An Editorial

Dennis Faas's picture

This is an Editorial. Actually, it is more of a commentary on my last posting concerning Microsoft's CEO and his remarks that declared his 'position' on the Novell/Microsoft agreement.

Mr. Ballmer stated that Microsoft was preparing to take Linux to task over Intellectual Property rights. He stated he was doing this for his 'share holders' to increase their 'profits'. It appears that Mr. Ballmer was speaking about himself more than anyone else since he owns a fairly large chunk of Microsoft stock.

However, there are a few things that Mr. Ballmer needs to be made aware before he speaks out on the subject again!

  • Linux is the kernel and only the kernel. It doesn't have an interface, Graphical or otherwise, so how can Linux be infringing on Microsoft's Intellectual Property?
  • The Graphical Desktop is provided by several different software platforms, KDE, Gnome, and a dozen or so others.
  • The Desktops mentioned are not 'owned' by any specific company. Since they are Open Source, there are thousands of individuals around the world that have developed, tested, and maintained those desktop packages. Is Microsoft going to go 'hunting' for them? 
  • I can still remember Apple suing Microsoft over the same thing in the early 80s. Apple had several systems that used GUI Desktops at the time Windows first came out. Has Microsoft forgotten about that? 

Mr. Ballmer's obvious lack of knowledge on the subject has created a rather hefty belly laugh in the community as well as a healthy amount of skepticism over Microsoft's internal health (at least, in my mind).

Keeping in mind that Microsoft has been rather militant about removing Open Source and Linux in the past, I can't help but wonder if Mr. Ballmer didn't accidentally voice his 'hidden agenda' with his remarks?

The deal with Novell [article 1, article 2], on the surface, was intended to foster a wider use of Microsoft Office and other products, much as has been done with Apple and the Macintosh platform.

I have no difficulty with that, and it's a good idea. This is exactly what Novell thought the agreement was for. You can imagine their surprise, however, to discover their 'buy in' actually was a licensing fee for the GUI (Graphical User Interface) Desktop, which Novell doesn't own anyway.

I wonder what is flitting around in the halls out at IBM, HP, and Sun after hearing those remarks. I'd be willing to bet any future 'deals' with Microsoft will become subject to extreme scrutiny -- if they happen at all.

How will all of this affect us, the consumers? Most likely we will have to pay the price at the checkout counter with raised prices on software and hardware. I can understand a company striving to gain market share, because that's part of being in business. But this isn't something you would learn at the Harvard School of Business, is it?

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