Why Novell Must Not Crash and Burn
Not since SCO has there been a company so reviled by the open source community as Novell following its deal with Microsoft. Already there are some clear signs of the negative effects of that anger: senior coders have left the company; Novell has posted a loss for the most recent quarter; and there are calls for a boycott of Novell products – to say nothing of imminent changes to the GNU GPL that might well nullify the entire Novell-Microsoft deal. Some people are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of Novell crashing and burning completely, but such a development could actually turn out to be one of the worst things to happen to free software.
One reason why Novell has had so much vitriol heaped upon it is that until that deal with Microsoft, it seemed to be a company that really got open source. After clinging on too long to its fading NetWare product – and resisting open standards in the shape of TCP/IP – it started to get serious about open source. In August 2003 it bought Ximian, the company founded by Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman, and then the leading European distribution, SuSE, Red Hat's main rival. This seemed to establish Novell as one of the top two open source companies, with good prospects of profiting nicely from the burgeoning business use of free software.
Novell's finest hour was when SCO took the decision in March 2003 to sue IBM:
The SCO Group, the owner of the UNIX operating system, announced today that it has filed legal action against IBM in the State Court of Utah, for misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference, unfair competition and breach of contract. The complaint alleges that IBM made concentrated efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of UNIX, particularly UNIX on Intel, to benefit IBM's new Linux services business.
In 1995, SCO purchased the rights and ownership of UNIX and UnixWare that had been originally owned by AT&T. This included source code, source documentation, software development contracts, licenses and other intellectual property that pertained to UNIX-related business. SCO became the successor in interest to the UNIX software licenses originally licensed by AT&T Bell Laboratories to all UNIX distributors, including HP, IBM, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and many others.
SCO's action was based on its purchase of “the rights and ownership of UNIX and UnixWare