Is there a secret story behind the Novell/Microsoft deal?

Was the Novell/Microsoft deal a worthwhile well-meaning effort between renegade open-source geeks at Microsoft and geeks at Novell that got derailed by salespeople and management, after which it was turned into a nightmare deal with the devil? I raise this question because I know someone with ties to people at both Microsoft and Novell. He has a credible story to tell about what really happened, and how much it differs from what we now know about the Novell/Microsoft deal. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get him to write up the history - yet. While I continue to pester him, here's the short version, third hand.

Normally I wouldn't go public with a third-hand version, but the story is credible enough to warrant attention. The basic skinny is that some renegade Microsoft employees who believe in open standards and open source approached Microsoft lawyers with a scheme to disarm the Microsoft patent portfolio. They got together with geeks and lawyers at Novell to make this happen. At some point, sales guys and management at one or both companies saw this as an opportunity for Novell to make money, and for Microsoft to manipulate the Linux market. They wrested the process away from the people who originated it, and the end result was the abominable deal that went forward.

Ironically, according to this story, people like Steve Ballmer were totally unaware of what was going on until the deal was sealed. So all of the posturing that Steve Ballmer has done since the deal is after-the-fact FUD-mongering.

It didn't sound credible to me, at first, but my source is reliable, and the people to whom he refers fit perfectly into this scenario. I know I haven't been able to give you many details, but what do you think? Sound credible to you?


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

believe it or not...

Cranberry's picture

mr. petreley, you are in linux should know better than to feed "untested products" to consumers-which is what you're doing by feeding a third hand story.
your last question: 'Sound credible to you?' you're asking about your journalism style? or your story? or the journalistic style you have?


Pozycjonowanie's picture

Microsoft owns the patents to both OpenGL and DirectX.


Anonymous's picture

I absolutely believe the story.
Anything coming from Microsoft is suspect at best and probably dishonest, crooked and barely legal if not outright criminal.
MicroSnot SUX as a system, company and management.

Novell has just joined the devil and I'm glad that I divested myself of SuSe on their acquisition thereof.
I was suspicious then and now I'm glad I have already completely cleaned all my systems of their crap!

Pete G.
Pearland, TX

I Believe

NewSitesBlog's picture

Novell has been great this far, why go with the crooks? It's a shame

Business Is Business

Free Internet Games's picture

I've long believed there's always something underhand with most business deals anyway and Microsoft is no exception. Call me a cynic, but it's mostly true.


Anonymous's picture

I don't trust MS business practices any more than you should trust the Windows OS

I'm missing something...

Kevin M.'s picture

So some guys at MS decide that the MS patent portfolio should be shredded, so they talk to the MS lawyers and the MS lawyers say 'right, let's put Gates & Ballmer in their place'. Hmmm. Isn't that sorta like cooking the goose that lays the golden egg? I can understand the Novell folks and their lawyers buying off on the scheme, but if I was an MS lawyer the first thing I'd do is fire off a memo to the suits at MS. Don't they have a fiduciary duty to do that?

Something doesn't add up...

Y a duck.................Y NOT!!!

Anonymous's picture

Have never worked for either company, But having worked for a large, mature, Corporation, in a large, mature market I know that strange things can go on below decks without the CEO in the know. I also know that folks with great intentions get over run by the money chasers.

It would not surprise me if their was a kernal of truth somewhere. I give it 40 / 60 .

I have yet to see anything abominable

DarrenR114's picture

I have yet to see anything negative to FOSS propagation happen as a consequence of the MS-Novell deal. And since that is the case, I don't really see that 'abominable' is a suitable adjective to describe it.

Well then, obviously you

Anonymous's picture

Well then, obviously you have not read Ballmer's accusations that Linux and open source software violates Microsoft's patents, and hints that the MS/Novell deal confirms this. So come on Steve, which patents is Linux infringing, and why aren't you suing now ?

Oh my God, come on

Geo's picture

Oh my God, come on people...
Let's cut this paranoid i-know-what-happened-and-it's-awful and all-arms-against-Microsoft-and-other-corporations. Let's remember that without Microsoft IT wouldn't be what it is today -- they've done and are still doing good things for everybody (DirectX comes in mind, which boosted gaming), DOS, Win95.
Why can't you just see the good parts of the agreement too and profit of them?

Oh my God, come on

Doug Wargo's picture

"Let's remember that without Microsoft IT wouldn't be what it is today -- "

Well, that would be a good point if so very much of basic DOS and Windows weren't ripped off from other companies. You can give Gates/Allen/Balmer credit for knowing a good thing when they stole it, but the world is full of smart thieves. Now they have such a dominant legal staff that they can usually (but not always) do what they want and the rules be damned. As for the Novell deal: Very,very few companies come out on top against MS and Novell will not spend huge amounts of money on lawsuits to protect an OS that they don't own. Big loser: Linux

"...Let's remember that

ice_man's picture

"...Let's remember that without Microsoft IT wouldn't be what it is today -- they've done and are still doing good things for everybody..."


I was using Sun and Open Windows long before I heard of M$ anything. The UNIX world 'was IT' prior to the debacle we now know as Windoze; and will maintain a dominant Internet presence for years to come....

DirectX is simply

Anonymous's picture

DirectX is simply Microsoft's way of trying to destroy openGL. Please do some research before posting next time.


Anonymous's picture

I agree with you. For those that don't, check out Vista. MS eliminated opengl support in Vista.

Incorrect and unlikely

Craig Ringer's picture

No they didn't - and doing so would be absurd. They just translate OpenGL calls through D3D by default so that OpenGL apps can run even when the entire display is in D3D-controlled 3d mode as in Aero Glass. It wouldn't make sense to do otherwise, since most video cards' programming models aren't friendly to multiple programs sharing control, let alone with different card interface APIs.

If MS dropped OpenGL they'd instantly lose the whole professional graphics workstation market to Apple and UNIX box vendors. People buy Quattro/Quadro and FireGL cards for a reason.

IIRC Microsoft _were_ also planning not to ship OpenGL drivers by default, knowing that vendors of cards with OpenGL support would do so themselves - but I think they canceled that. Vendors can still provide enhanced drivers if, for example, their card can handle both OpenGL and Direct3D access at once.

See: This MS weblog post and an announcement at neowin, among other things. Google can find lots more info.

I'm no big Vista fan, but I think they've done a good job with OpenGL support. I wish they hadn't gone down the D3D path years ago and had instead worked with the OpenGL consortium ... but having done so, they're doing OK.

But it's slow

CAPSLOCK2000's picture

The problem with translating OpenGL to DirectX is that it will be slower than native OpenGL. This will give DirectX an advantage over OpenGL. If you want your software to perform as fast as possible you will be forced onto DirectX.

"native" OpenGL on vista

Anonymous's picture

There are no good parts to the agreement.

cprise's picture

Microsoft having control over who can and cannot sell Linux-based products is completely, 100% negative.


How exactly ?

DarrenR114's picture

How exactly through the deal with Novell is MS controlling who does and who does not sell Linux?

Either put or just shut up... all this stupid, ignorant, irrational ranting about how bad the MS-Novell deal is getting tiresome.

By forcing Linux sellers to pay a tax to Microsoft

Karl O. Pinc's picture

Steve Ballmer at a Feb 15th 2007 forecast update meeting for financial analysts said: "I would not anticipate that we make a huge additional revenue stream from our Novell deal, but I do think it clearly establishes that Open Source is not free and Open Source will have to respect intellectual property rights of others just as any other competitor will."

Does that not scream to you "Microsoft will not allow Linux to be sold unless Microsoft is paid money."?

It's the Novell deal that "clearly establishes" this. It is Novell's payment to Microsoft that allows Novell to distribute Linux. Ballmer's statement shouts "all non-Novell Linux distributors are violating the law", to the detriment of Microsoft.

How could it be more clear? Microsoft is threatening Linux distributors. Microsoft's permission is required to sell Linux. Further, nobody should be allowed to give Linux away for free.

It's not like I'm mis-quoting Ballmer here. He's said similar things ever since the deal was signed.

The "big lie" that the MS-Novell deal is good for Linux does not hold up when the facts come out. Quite the contrary. At least according to Microsoft. Of course, Microsoft is not willing to specify what part of Linux allows MS to collect a tax when Linux is distributed. They just want people to fear using Linux. This is good for Linux how?

Having throughly debunked your position, I'm now set up to respond to your insults with insults of my own. But it could be that you are disadvantaged by your circumstances. Upton Sinclair wrote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Many people have invested themselves in the Microsoft economy and the monolopy profits on which it's based (80% profit margins on MS Word!), and these people fear Linux. Fear leads to muddied analysis. My hope is that people will realize that when that 80% profit margin goes away there's going to be a whole lot of money floating around waiting to flow to somebody who delivers value. What's to fear there?

Microsoft wants open source

Anonymous's picture

Microsoft wants open source to respect intellectual property rights but they don't do it themselves.

>>Having throughly debunked

Anonymous's picture

>>Having throughly debunked your position<<

Sorry, you haven't debunked anything. All you've done is provide your own spin on Ballmer's comments and statements. Keep trying.


why has there always to be a

Geo's picture

why has there always to be a war?
Linux good, microsoft bad!
i work a a sys admin and manage a corporate network and, yeah, i would like that the servers running win 2000/2003 server would work seamlessly with linux ones (used for Asterisk etc.)
the "fight" between DirectX and OpenGL is good for us, the end users, as is the windows-linux-mac os struggle because all systems are forced to evolve this way => advantage again
and, of course, openoffice is an office clone, would it have existed if ms office would'nt have? no!
and MS is right: patents must be respected, because people worked on the software that they are made for.
what company would survive and further develop products based on donations? RedHat? - le's remember the 2500$ cost of EL. NONE!

>> the "fight" between

Nicholas Petreley's picture

>> the "fight" between DirectX and OpenGL is good for us

There is no fight between DirectX and OpenGL. Microsoft owns the patents to both.

linux, oss, closed source good; ms bad

Anonymous's picture

linux and other open source software and even closed source are good; ms is bad and against both groups as well as against open standards; why on earth is ms so far above critique? it's history, business practices, quality, interoperability, price and ethics are all bottom of the barrel, so why can't it be said?

Religious zealotry aside, as

Anonymous's picture

Religious zealotry aside, as IT specialists, we do owe Microsoft something. I too started out working in the Sun/SunOS and VAX/VMS world. Let's remember that early business/commercal use of UNIX was not open either. Proprietary software tied to proprietary hardware. There were not a lot of IT jobs because HW and SW were prohibitively expensive. Microsoft and Intel with DOS/Windows and the extended 8086 CPU family brought computing to the masses, medium-sized businesses, small businesses, families, geeks... This caused an explosion of technology and a huge increase in jobs in the IT workplace. Linus wouldn't have had a cheap hardware platform to build on if not for the expansion of the marketplace from Micorsoft and Intel. Is Microsoft the 800 pound gorilla that clubs us over the head with EULAs, exorbitant licensing fees, monopolistic practices,... absolutely. Did the Microsoft/Intel expansion of the technology market help create the technology universe that gives us all (big and small) the opportunity to participate?... Absolutely. Id on't like Microsoft anymore than the rest of you, but let's not deny the history that brought us to this point.

The micro computer explosion

Steve H.'s picture

The micro computer explosion would have happened whether or not Microsoft existed. True, it was little more than a hobbiest market (remember the Z-80 cpu and the s-100 bus?) when they got into the game, but that was merely fortuitous timing on Gates part.

Secret? What secret?

Trueash's picture

I do not quite understand why you decided to share your story in the first place.
"Does this sound credible to me"? Well, this part - "people like Steve Ballmer were totally unaware of what was going on until the deal was sealed" - does not.
This - "both companies saw this as an opportunity for Novell to make money, and for Microsoft to manipulate the Linux market" - does.
That latter part is the only one that matters. And it's been clear right away.

Secret Story

nwconfig's picture

Writing can be a difficult job,can't it.
How about doing a little work and offering up
something useful.
Steve Ballmer unaware
MS employees conspiring with lawyers....
Sound credible to you?
Want to buy a bridge?

Are you kidding me?

John Mangequeue's picture

"..some renegade Microsoft employees who believe in open standards and open source approached Microsoft lawyers with a scheme to disarm the Microsoft patent portfolio. They got together with geeks and lawyers at Novell to make this happen."

And the lawyers didnt call ol Steve and have their asses fired?
Seems to me that lawyers would be the FIRST people who would want to fire/sue/retroactively abort any employee who would try to 'disarm the Microsoft patent portfolio'.

This has got to be the stupidest thing I read this side of Dvorak or Enderle. Seems like some half assed attempt to make it seem like "shucks guys, we is on your side, ya know? we likes dem Leenux thingamajig and we wanted to do the right thing but goooolly mister, we just plum couldnt pull it off!"
So this was all a good thing that just went horribly wrong?


Let me guess, you didnt do your homework last night and at 8h58 you came up with this idea?
Its either that or you were stoned out of your mind when you wrote this and thought people would buy it.

Ballmer totally unaware ..

Dave's picture

> people like Steve Ballmer were totally unaware of what was going on until the deal was sealed ..

You cannot be serious !!

yes but how about money?

Anonymous's picture

I am an ex novell employee, and I have n longer commit with them. There is too much money for such agreement. In fact there is ten times bigger that the agreement really worth for MS.
either Ms is wasting money in novell either there are some other points in the agreement which are hidden for the moment.
I would bet for the last one. :-D

I used to deal a lot with

Anonymous's picture

I used to deal a lot with Novell when it ruled the office networks far and wide. Years later I heard a rumour that they where planning an 'OPEN' project; 'OPEN' no thanks I have lived the Novell OPEN your wallet campaigns before.

From my experience of both companies it sounds real enough to me, but then again I think that somebody is sponsoring the dropping of the odd numbered kernels and the kernel stability it offered.

Yeah, I'd buy it

Network Geek's picture

Actually, yes, it does sound fairly credible.
I know a couple former Microsoft employees and, though it's been some time since they worked for the giant in Redmond, they're good people who believe in delivering good tools to users. And I haven't met anyone at Novell who's been anything but customer oriented, and I've been a customer, and a CNE, for roughly fifteen years.
So, yeah, I'd buy that people much farther down the food chain than Ballmer tried to do a good thing, then got vigourously assaulted from the rear by sales-types and lawyers. Happens all too often.

Novell and Microsoft

just an reader's picture

Knowing good people is one thing, and maybe they tell the truth seen through their eyes. Facts are an other thing. The way an company moves and plans is different from what these poor employes want and do.
One thing is for sure, from the company's sides, novell and microsoft, they both wanto make money, and dont care about other idea's, onless there is some profit in that too.
Is this good or bad, it depends on where you stand, for open source there is some good in it too, widely more acceptance, code being added etc, lets just hope that no code get in there that will in the last run, get linux / open source into an vendor lock, or legal dispute from wich it can never recover.
If this you know person wants to share his thoughts on the subject he could add comment here, other wise i dont think its the right thing to post your article at all..dont you agree?

Linux, OSS, Windows -- 3 parallel worlds

Anonymous's picture

Lets get a few things clear here
1. Linus never wrote the Linux kernel to compete with Microsoft, Solaris etc. It was a project he wanted to do. And I still think that he is doing exactly that. Only difference is he is getting paid now for doing that. But I think without that also, he would be doing the same thing.

2. MAC was there, and still is there. It is one of the most beautiful, stable and costliest desktop OS one can find, and is still using the BSD kernel, with a superbly built graphics shell all around it.

3. Even when MAC was there, MS copied most part of it. It wasnt beautiful, secure, etc. but was meant for the MASS market. From ground up it was targeted to be MASS market, riding on the marketing and hardware muscle of IBM initially, and then opening up huge opps for both hold and new hardware vendors to come up with ever gaining powerful hardwares, to be used by millions of consumers.

4. UNIX, was there, is still there, and of course will be there, for the server space. Solaris is the fastest UNIX the fastest UNIX built till date, and but also is very very expensive.

5. Microsoft till date, does not have to prove to geeks, linux users, Openoffice users, that they are building a superior product. As long as its balance sheet shows, the actual people, the consumers, are buying, no matter what anybody says. Microsoft has reached to them first, when MAC was busy catering to a select group, and is still reaching them, when we are fighting with each other about the "goodness" of Linux and Openoffice, vis-a-vis Windows and Office.
To the average consumer, it is like saying, that one can get milk for free, but you wont know if it is okay or not, until you have it.

6. Current day Linux proponents like Novell(Suse), IBM, Redhat, etc, are all jumping to Linux bandwagon. Why? They support FOSS? Pah?
Though Linux they have one way to gain control over market, and save tons of money, that they shed out to Microsoft, in one way or the other. Novell was almost dead, with its networking OS market taken away by Windows Network edition.
IBM is interested because anyhow, as Linux is free, it is eating into the AIX pie of the business. Ditto with SUN, with Solaris revenues going kaput. They are only interested in Linux, because whether or not their customers want Linux, or their own versions of UNIX, their hardware should be sold.
In case of Redhat, they are just following what Stallman showed them...that you don't charge for open source software, but for services for installing and maintaining. Pleae dont say Redhat is in this OSS fray for philanthropic purposes. It is only there to implement their own business model and earn money.
Nvidia starts supporting Linux, because they are seeing the possibility of Linux (the packaged ones of course) maybe making it to the desktop market. No matter what OS a person runs, he should be able to USE their cards anyway.
Cellphone companies are jumping to the Linux market, to save cost on OS, and move away from Symbian.
There are many many more examples to show, when a company, having revenue generation targets, etc, is playing the OSS game, it is for monetary gains only. In that aspect, they are no different from M$, only their business model is different.

So we few mortals, should stop fighting trying to find which company is better, whether Microsoft or Redhat, Novell, IBM, SUN etc., and use only that software that we find suitable for our needs. Because ultimately this doesnt contribute to the growth of GNU Linux, but only to the growth of certain companies. Even pitting MAC against windows doesn't help you buy it for free, right?

Even is for commercial purposes only....otherwise why the google ads? Of course it has to pay for server space....

C' mon Lets put it in a wide perspective

Ed2's picture

Hello !

Long time reading, my first post.

First, I come here every week to read about Linux @ Linux Jounal, becouse, of course, I use Linux, I like Linux and, no doubt, hate M$ and all sort of expansive and poor software that company does from since Win 3.0. More, all sort of f..$#@ business strategy that shut off many other companies and great products since those times. Who can remember Lotus 123, Wordperfect, etc, etc... Great products, absolutely copied from M$, and also put off of the market from the "Big Black Box" that windows was , where (remember) just M$ programs runs.

I don't know what could be hapening under this Deal. But, one things is crystal clear to me whatever the consequensce could be, I kick ass of my problematic Suse 10x and install a happy and full functional Mandriva in my computer and incentivate my friends to do the same.

And, Vive la Liberte!!!


No different from M$ ???

Anonymous's picture

Of course all the companies are trying to make money. But I see a lot of difference between companies that go to the market trying to demonstrate that its product is superior (be it open or not), and other companies that have an army of lawyers destroying competing products, until only theirs is left in the field, and argue that that's free market and users have chosen it!


Elektronika's picture

You are talking about nonsenses now: everyone wants to make money, everyone looks for someone on whom they can do that. There’re millione ways for it. Who cares, if you can make use of it. Company produces product, you install it. Be happy! Don’t worry.