Is Novell's action the doom of Linux?

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This entry was posted on 11/6/2006 12:16 PM and is filed under General Info.

The recent news of Novell and Microsoft teaming up is creating a wave of hatred and angst in the Linux community. In a world that is fragile as taking on one of the largest monopolies in the world, this is the last thing Linux needed, but a step that was done for one simple reason: profits. Some have mentioned that this announcement was likely due to the recent Oracle release of their own version of Red Hat, but one this complex would have been in the works for years and therefore would only be a coincidence at most, maybe accelerated but not reponding to.

While I am not for any company such as Novell branching into a losing situation, such as their agreement, I am not about to condemn them like others have. I have seen many blog postings, replies and articles calling for the death of Novell and anyone associated with them (See here and here for just two). Sure there are those who will stick to the product, like Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols says he will do in his posting here but these are few and far between.

The basis for this agreement is simple. Microsoft needs to look like they are not trying to kill Linux, while they are still trying to kill Linux. Novell on the other hand needs to make money and be profitable for their shareholders, while protecting their customers from possible litigation. I mean who else would you want in the world selling your Linux Product but the largest seller of software in the world? For Novell, simply being on the speed dial list of server sales people stating, "if you need Linux, go with Novell..." is worth paying a few bucks on licenses.

Sure, this is basically admitting to the world that there are pieces of Linux that could potentially be violating some MS patents or IP, but realistically they are. How could you be writing to NTFS systems, running Samba, playing windows media, or run programs via Wine and not stumble on something. So in the end, with Novell's action, the world will at least be dealing with an issue that people have been trying to avoid for the better part of a decade at least. The main concern for other Linux distros is evident by a comment made by Kevin Carmony of Linspire in his Linspire Letter dated Nov 3rd, 2006. "
This part of their agreement, by its very nature, suggests two things: 1) that Microsoft HAS IP in open source Linux, and 2) that Microsoft should be paid a licensing fee for this IP. I don't think the rest of the world agrees with these points, or that they've ever been proven in any court. By making such assertions, and now with Novell as their poster child for these claims, Microsoft is in a position to either try to kill open source Linux with exorbitant fees, or to make sure they share in its success, should they prove unable to kill it."

So will I stand up on the side of Free Software and toss all of my SLED and openSuse discs? Or will I go along with Steven's approach, and declare that as long as my software works, I don't care about the legalities or politics? I personally will go along with most of the latter, as too what I think is the most important thing is software running on Linux works with the hardware, while at the same time ensure that the user remains in full control of what this software does and does not do. It is my opinion that Linux is not just about Freedom, but about Functionality.

There is no way to keep the world's knowledge Open Source while also keeping investors happy in
today's economy. Just as complex is keeping the throngs of Free Software fans and evangelists happy, so no matter what any for profit Linux company does, in the end it will always be regarded by these concerned individuals as the wrong step towards their nirvana.

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