December 1, 2006

What does Microsoft-Novel merger mean?

Only Microsoft could promise not to sue a competitor, and as a result
create panic over potential lawsuits.

When Microsoft announced that it would give Novell a free pass to
infringe its software patents in the name of interoperability, Linux pundits
began to fret that the move could contaminate other distributions.
But the alliance between Novell and Microsoft isn’t just about putting
the rest of the Linux world on notice.

Simon Phipps, an open-source luminary at Sun, is convinced that the
Novell/Microsoft deal was born out of Novell’s own patent portfolio: He
surmises that Novell had Microsoft over the proverbial barrel with a Net-
Ware-era software patent. Why else would Microsoft commit hundreds
of millions of dollars to boost SUSE Linux?

That rumor aside, the real story here is that Microsoft apparently has
realized its server market is in jeopardy. Now, the company has performed
a textbook wheel, turning its troops mid-battle to protect the
flanks. But it’s not the enemy that has changed; it’s the battlefield itself.
Where once the question for servers was “Windows or Unix?” virtualization
changes the answers in a recursive and mind-bending way.

When you get right down to it, Microsoft’s designation of a partner
here will benefit both companies: Virtualized or not, both operating systems
will still require you to buy a license to run them