Novell confirms that patent deal gave it access to Microsoft IP
May 10, 2007 1 Comment
Matthew Aslett has some more information from Novell on the patent agreement with Microsoft. From the article:
Last week I noted that a new explanation had emerged as to why Novell entered into its patent agreement with Microsoft: because Novell engineers “required sanctioned access to Microsoft’s code in order to develop open source interoperability without violating MSFT’s IP.”
I asked Novell to confirm whether this was correct and received an interesting response from Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Linux and open platforms at Novell, in which he confirmed the explanation and stated that it was not new, but had been overlooked the press and community.
The statement from Steinman was as follows:
“Since we announced the Novell-Microsoft agreement in November, we’ve always said that the intellectual property agreement provided a foundation for the interoperability between Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise. This foundation falls into two primary categories: 1) the “covenant not to sue,” which provides customers with peace of mind when they deploy SUSE Linux Enterprise; and 2) the IP access necessary for the technical collaboration to deliver interoperability between Windows and Linux. For better or worse, the community and press at-large have focused on #1, although Novell has talked about both categories since we signed the agreement.
“As you know, engineers at Novell and Microsoft are hard at work on our technical collaboration, and we demonstrated the first results at BrainShare in March. But in order to deliver the interoperability between Novell eDirectory and Microsoft Active Directory, as well as the bidirectional virtualization between Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise, Novell required sanctioned access to Microsoft’s code in order to develop open source interoperability without violating Microsoft’s intellectual property.
OK, that sounds a little more reasonable than some of the previously given explanations. The perplexing part here is why this is all slowly coming out in bits. Given the initial community reaction, you’d think Novell would have been crystal clear of the reasons and benefits from day one. Their actions caused people (for the most part reasonably in my opinion, given the circumstances) to assume the worst. At this point a huge amount of damage has been done to Novell, not only from an image/trust point of view but also from a staffing/recruiting point of view. Both of these are absolutely critical in the commercial Open Source world. It will be interesting to see how they attempt to recover moving forward.