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Winners and losers in the New Linux World


November 17, 2006 7:14 am





Linux Watch

Last week I wrote down my thoughts about the response on the Novell – Microsoft agreement. Well, a week has passed and people have had some time to think about what this cooperation really means. Today I saw a nice post from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on Linux-Watch, “Winners and losers in the New Linux World”. The article discusses how the Linux business (yes, Linux and Open Source are business, also Red-Hat does make some money ;-)) is changing and what this might mean for Linux and for companies like Novell, Oracle, Red-Hat and Microsoft. Interesting reading from a Linux & Open Source Editor that took some time to think…

So, what does it all mean? Rather than make a snap judgment I decided to sit, wait and watch before trying to make sense of it all. Now, I’m ready to give you my two-cents on who are the winners and losers in this post-deal Linux world.

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  1. By:Ron van Herk

    A long response to your comment, but let me try to explain my thoughts about the MS-Novell agreement, forgive me 🙂

    Within the Open Source world there are different types of contributors, there are students writing code as a study projects, there are taxi drivers or construction workers that spend their free time on coding as a hobby, there are independent consultants writing code for their customers and there are various companies writing code while using Open Source software as part of their business model. In that last category, we’ve got companies like Red-Hat, Novell, Canonical, IBM, Oracle, Linspire and many, many others.

    Just like there are many different contributors, there are many different types of Open Source users, students using Linux on their desktop PC, home users running Open Office on Windows, companies using Linux as a webserver or on their desktop, enterprise customers using Linux in their datacenter and various other environments.

    Companies that contribute to Open Source projects do so because they have a business need for it, Novell has some programmers working on adding VBA support to Open Office because Novell thinks that their target customers would like this and as such they might come to Novell for support and additional feature requests. The good thing about Open Source is that Novell needs to contribute their work back to the community and as a result others can benefit from the work that has been done. Somehow there are quit a few companies that made Open Source part of their business model, some with a sole focus on Open Source, some use it as part of their business. Each of these companies has it’s own reasons why they spend time and money on certain projects, Intel might spend some on drivers so that Linux users can use their videocards, HP might spend some to make sure Linux can run on their Servers, Sun might spend some on Open Office so that they can make some money while providing support on this and Novell might spend some on Open Office so that they can make some money while providing support on this.

    OK, on Open Office support, companies have a choice, get support from Sun or get support from Novell, both will do their best to make sure they satisfy their customers and at the same time they need to contribute their work back to the community so that others can benefit from this as well. This is what I think Open Source is all about, supporting customers to make sure they are able to use Open Source solutions. Novell, Red-Hat, Canonical, IBM, Oracle, Linspire and all the others do this in a different way, they all try to satisfy their customers in such a way so that these customers get to them for the service they provide while using Open Source solutions.

    Is it bad to make money out of Open Source? I think this is where we all agree, it isn’t, currently most of the contributions into Open Source projects are delivered through these commercial companies like Red-Hat, IBM and Novell. As long as they all follow the rules specified in the various licenses why would it be a problem if companies compete on the service they provide?

    OK, now we get to the key topic. Somehow enterprise customers seem to use both Microsoft and Open Source products, and somehow they would like to see these two work together as much as possible. Also, enterprise customers don’t want to get dragged in to legal issues around Open Source, they know the possibilities for these are minimal but multi-billion dollar companies prefer to prevent issues rather then having a minimal risk. Based on these requests, Novell made the deal with Microsoft to work together on interoperability and they have made the promise not to sue each others customers on patent related issues. Does this mean Novell can screw with Microsoft patents? No, in that case Microsoft will get to Novell and they are still able to sue Novell for improper usage of Microsoft patents, they will just not be able to drag any customers into this argument.

    I think it will take some time to have people (including me) realize exactly what this collaboration with Microsoft is all about, in my opinion it’s about competition in supporting Open Source, it’s about Novell trying to fit the Open Source offering to it’s target customers. The interesting thing about the article is that it’s somewhat in-line with my thoughts about using Open Source while running a business, I don’t think that the interview with Steve Ballmer changes anything on this.

  2. All I can say about this is that is sounds good to Enterprise customers and bad to the Linux faithful. I hope that everybody is just overreacting, but MS’s comments about IP make me very nervous.

  3. By:Ian

    “I don’t think that the interview with Steve Ballmer changes anything on this”

    It certainly throws a blanket of doubt over the intentions of Novell of being a real open source community member. I agree with most of what you said. I have no problem with how Novell uses open source. As a customer, it benefits me. I do, however think they are creating a problem for themselves by allowing uncertainty to creep into the minds of users/potential users. I don’t know who is to blame for that. Novell seems to say one thing, Microsoft another. And Novell needs to be doing a better job making sure people understand what all of this needs, and to be honest, they are failing in that regard. Aside from a few people like the open audio team, nobody is trying real hard to make any of this deal very clear and why Microsoft is positioning themselves against Linux in legal terms. This hurts Novell long term, I believe.

  4. By:Chris Cox

    Is the removal of Novell’s web page on why you would choose Linux over Windows “overreacting”… or merely just another way that Novell is looking out for “my” interests?

    See missing page:

    I’m not sure I can believe anything that Novell says anymore… just lies and more lies…

    I think most people in business believe that lying is the best policy… we’ll see if that works out for Novell too.

    I guess most businesses aren’t intrested in integrity anymore. Call that overreacting if you must…