Folks have had a week and a half to digest the Novell-Microsft agreement. Different stakeholders have had different reactions. Customer response has been almost universally positive. I'm at Novell's global sales kickoff this week, and Ron Hovsepian, other execs, and account reps who've had customer discussions about the deal are reporting positive feedback across the board. The financial analysts and the market have been mixed, adopting primarily a “wait and see the results” approach. Industry analysts have been generally positive, highlighting how this move should help drive Linux more firmly into the data center. Partners have also been generally positive, although they, like others, have needed time to absorb the various pieces of the agrement. A senior representative from one of Novell's global strategic partners at the sales meeting yesterday said that, while they had to step back initially to assess the deal, they see the customer benefits and will continue full speed ahead working with Novell on Linux. Novell employees are excited, although they've got a lot of questions about how this will work in practice and what it means for them specifically. There's a lot of focus at the meetings this week on making sure the employee base understands the deal.
The final group, where reaction has been the most mixed, is the open source community. There have been some positive comments on how this should help promote Linux. There have been many questions seeking clarification on the details, particularly around GPL compatibility and the covenant not to sue individual non-commercial developers. We've published answers to some frequently asked community questions here. We'll continue to respond to those questions.
Finally, there's been a hostile reaction by certain sections of the community, which accuse Novell, at best, of doing a ill-advised deal and, at worse, intentionally selling out the Linux community. There are two accusations this group has raised that I've seen appear in multiple places. One is that Novell has, in effect, stolen from the community for its own commercial gain. Needless to say, I have a hard time with this because it assumes Novell has only taken, not given, to the community. Novell has probably contributed more to the community that almost any other commercial entity except, perhaps, IBM. We've been significant contributors to Linux, Samba, OpenOffice.org, and many more projects, and Novell engineers (now, and in their earlier SUSE and Ximian incarnations) have either launched or been among the main contributors behind a number of projects, including GNOME, KDE, Mono and more. Novell has also open sourced important proprietary technologies like Yast, AppArmor and iFolder, and has co-founded several important open-source projects, including Bandit and Higgins. Nat Friedman, who heads up our Linux desktop engineering effort, has just been named Technologist of the Year by CRN, while Michael Meeks, who's closely involved with work on OpenOffice.org, has been selected by a leading UK developer publication as the most significant individual contributor to open source for 2006. So to suggest Novell is just ripping off the community completely understates how much we've contributed.
A second theme that has been played up with those opposed to the deal is to position Novell as the “new SCO.” There has be no one who has done more to defend the IP position of Linux than Novell over the last three years. We challenged, and continue to challenge, SCO on their claims of copyright infringement in Linux. We offered indemnification on Linux copyrights to customers almost three years ago, while maintaining our position that we did not believe there were copyright infringements in Linux. We put out a patent pledge in 2004 saying we'd use our patent portfolio to defend our open source products if they were attacked with any patent claims by third parties. We helped launch the Open Invention Network to provide further patent protection for customers and developers of Linux. The agreement with Microsoft is an extension of our efforts to try to remove intellectual property as a negative consideration for customers interested in buying Linux. This is good for Linux adoption. With the Microsoft deal, we are not making any admission that there are Microsoft or any other third party patents in Linux. We have simply reached an broad agreement with Microsoft to remove any patent considerations for customers of each other's products, whether proprietary or open source.
Obviously, it's up to us to show as we roll out this agreement that it is beneficial to Linux as a whole. I think the fact that Microsoft has made a clear commitment to Linux interoperability is a significant boon for Linux that is not being recognized in the community. The world's biggest software company and fiercest Linux competitor will actually be providing Linux to its customers. This is a huge change, one that most people probably would have considered impossible two weeks ago. People have a right to their opinion, but some of the more belligerent claims completely discount Novell's history with open source to date, as well as our ongoing stated commitments to promote and defend Linux, including on the IP front. I think it's important to keep perspective.