Friday, November 03, 2006

MS and Novell

Well, after Oracle's recent announcement about providing support for Red Hat customers, the Novell/Microsoft announcement seems to add more excitement to an already hyperactive open source environment! Red Hat has a large rebuttal to both that is pretty informative. There are plenty of analysts out there who think everything from "Microsoft Embraces Linux - Extends capabilities" (on the way to Extinguishing Linux in the traditional Microsoft Embrace, Extend, Extinguish model?) to debates about the values to Novell, the challenges to Red Hat, the potential alliances being formed, the legal lines being drawn, the benefits to Microsoft, etc.

Clearly, Microsoft wins some points from this arrangement. They win money from Novell (royalties for something or another), they prevent Novell from asserting patent rights (rumor is that Novell has a few that might read on portions of Microsoft's .NET or other application technologies), they establish themselves as an Enterprise capable, viable virtualization platform supporting Windows AND Linux (except they haven't shipped their virtualization product just yet), and introduce some standard FUD into the Linux market place.

Novell in the short term wins. Microsoft obviously can ship a lot of additional vouchers for SUSE Linux, leading to more revenue for Novell (those were discount vouchers, right? So there is still *some* software revenue), Novell doesn't have to worry about legal action from the land of Microsoft for a while and can presumably focus on technology and sales. Novell gets a lot of other press and is recognized as a potentially legitimate peer of Red Hat - something it has been struggling with since the acquisition of SUSE Labs. And it adds another Enterprise capability to its sales literature "Works with Microsoft" which is clearly appealing to many Enterprise class customers.

In the short term, the impact on Red Hat is harder to guage. I think this is a case of "what does not kill them, makes them stronger.". As long as it doesn't kill them! I personally think the technologists and agressive marketing team there will survive this, will polarize the Linux market place a bit, and encourage a bit more competition in the US at least, which can only make both Novell and Red Hat stronger over time. And, this (in combination with the Oracle announcement) might make Red Hat a bit more responsive to their customer base, which I'm sure will wind up pleasing their customers more over the next year or two.

And, for Linux in general, it is a clear sign that Linux and the Open Source software stack above it is a market contender that now gets to play with the big boys. And, in that game, I think Linux will continue to grow up and emerge as a winner in the long term.

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