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

by Nicholas Petreley

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?