From Issue #155March 2007
What you fear is that Microsoft will somehow pollute Linux through Novell, but you never mention the possible effect, that some of the Linux way of thinking will blend back into Microsoft.
Projects like the Open Source ODF add-in for MS Word, and Port25, will of course have an effect on the inner culture of Microsoft.
No matter how evil you think the people at MS are, you will have to admit that if the Linux way is as great as we all tell each other it is, people at MS will notice it. And it will color their way of thinking.
Do we mind that?
If MS forms a symbiosis with Linux, will MS have the ability to pull Linux more towards MS, than Linux will pull MS the other way?
Think about it! You say that your crusade against MS isn't personal, that you leave the door open for MS to improve their way. What if Linux itself is that open door?
Most of us in the Linux environment fear that Microsoft will leverage this "deal" to begin the process of extorting money from Linux users (in particular the business users) in the guise of "indemnifying" those users from putative Microsoft "intellecual property" claims. Steve Balmer has already made the claim that Linux users are stealing MS's IP and there are rumors of under the table payoffs from businesses intimidated into paying Microsoft protection money (See: Microsoft Getting Paid for Patents in Linux).
The longer that this state of affairs continues, the worse things become for the state of Linux and the larger universe of Free Software. If Microsoft can institutionalize the concept of a "Microsoft Tax" on Linux and other Free Software, then we are all threatened. If we don't destroy this sprig of Microsoft kudzu now, in five years our world will be enveloped in Microsoft Blue.
I don't argue that everybody should accept paying a Microsoft tax.
Novell has the right to do busines with MS, and if Novell finds that an MS tax is a great thing for Novell to pay, let them.
This is about symbiosis. If MS forms a symbiosis with Linux through a Linux-based income, then MS has started stepping down the path that we have yelled at them to take for the last 10-15 years: The path of Open Source and free software.
MS looks at Linux from a business perspective. Don't mind if they do, they are a business.
We might know better, we might be aware that there is no basis for MS to collect taxes from Linux users. But MS looks at the world through profits, turnover and sales.
And just like a baby tries to understand new things by putting them into its mouth, even though it might be non-food, MS is trying to understand Linux in a very non-Linux way, but in a way that MS is used to understand things.
Somewhere down the stream, people are paying money to Novell that eventually becomes MS profits. Novell thus has a cost that no other Linux vendor has. And thus Novells customers have a cost that other Linux vendors' customers haven't got. Bottom line, businesses and people who buy Linus solutions from Novell are less cost-effective than customers of other Linux vendors.
Let's use the fact that Novell Linux customers are less cost effective than others, to make MS understand better ways of making money with Linux, instead of just yelling at them for making money on silly partnership deals.
If there is no value added for Novells Linux customers in paying the MS tax, these customers will notice and complain, and by that time, MS will be used to a Linux based income, and they will therefore try harder to make money on Linux the Linux-way.