The other side of Microsoft+Novell

When I reported yesterday on the Microsoft-Novell deal, I didn't really look in much detail at the other side of the argument that this was a bad move for FOSS in general.

There has been quite a backlash from some people about this move, and they seem to have valid counter-arguments. For example, this Technocrat article is strongly against this move.

There are two significant announcements. First, that Novell and Microsoft are entering into a patent cross-license, and second, that Microsoft is promising not to assert its patents against individual non-commercial developers. The bad part is that this sets Mirosoft up to assert its patents against all commercial Open Source users.

Also, Novell's competitor (and long-running enterprise Linux vendor) Red Hat have posted their response to this announcement. It's worth mentioning that since Red Hat are a direct competitor, they have a commercial motive for not approving this, but it's worth reading anyway.

I did briefly mention this in my FOSSwire article, but I think it's worth mentioning again that I think this is a more serious concern than I originally made it out to be.

Also from the article:

So, the protection of non-commercial individual contributors means that you can make Open Source, but if anyone actually uses it for something other than a hobby or a non-profit organization, there is an implicit threat that Microsoft can bring a software patent lawsuit against them - unless they are a customer of Novell.

Also, enterprise Linux vendor and Novell competitor Red Hat have posted their response to this move. Obviously remembering that they have a commercial motive for opposing this move, they are against it:
Q: What do these announcements mean for Red Hat?

A: It means Linux has won. The world's largest software companies are saying what customers have known for years: Open source innovation delivers better software and better value.

Q: Did Red Hat consider a similar patent deal with Microsoft?

A: An innovation tax is unthinkable. Free and open source software provide the necessary environment for true innovation. Innovation without fear or threat. Activities that isolate communities or limit upstream adoption will inevitably stifle innovation.

We believe so strongly in this that we made a critical promise to our customers five years ago:

"To the extent any party exercises a Patent Right with respect to Open Source/Free Software which reads on any claim of any patent held by Red Hat, Red Hat agrees to refrain from enforcing the infringed patent against such party for such exercise ('Our Promise')."

Anything less would not be genuine. 200,000+ customers trust our Promise. 80+% of commercial Linux customers choose us every day. That's leadership--which respects the needs of the community and delivers the promise of open source to our customers.

And thinking about it, maybe I was a bit quick to say that this would help interoperability. I guess we'll really have to wait and see how this affects FOSS.

So in the interest of fairness and balance, that's this side of the argument.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold -

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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