Microsoft and Novell pull a SCO

There is plenty of cause now for marking Microsoft IP for cleaning out of OS X and Linux

When I have to declare, as I do this week, that everything I write in my column and blogs is my personal opinion, you know I'm on the warpath.

Among huge companies, closely held backroom deals are the norm. Putting aside fear of litigation, Novell and Microsoft made such a deal and went public with it. They set up open source players, although consumers of open source never quite got past their fear of abandonment. The message is this: If you're running Linux, but you're not running Microsoft-blessed SLES (Suse Linux Enterprise Server), Microsoft won't promise not to sue the maker of your Linux distribution, one or more of the open source projects that are part of it, or you. BSD and OS X, and their users, don't get a pass, either.

The shape of this agreement suggests that Microsoft and Novell have learned from the best, the corporate strategic masterminds at The SCO Group. The scheme there, which you may recall Microsoft championed early and loudly, was to declare that Linux incorporated source code protected by SCO Group copyrights. This declaration gave SCO the power to send out threatening letters to software vendors and customers. The letters said, in essence, that the lucky recipient could pay SCO a license fee now, or risk having its name added to the big list of defendants in its case and pay far more.

SCO Group's intentions were variously interpreted. The shallow take on it was that SCO wanted to turn the open source market into its personal piggybank. A deeper, gloomier take was that SCO Group wanted to wipe out Linux and Unix products that weren't explicitly blessed by the owner of the System V Unix intellectual property portfolio. Fortunately for all of us, SCO Group got tangled up in IBM's legal net. Have you thanked them lately?

But back to the SCO Group Academy's newest and proudest grads, Microsoft and Novell. To celebrate the pairing, Microsoft is giving away 70,000 coupons for SLES to customers who want to run Windows and Linux together. These are "stay out of court free" cards that hope to derail customers' existing relationships with other commercial Linux vendors. It's a quick rise to prominence for Novell while its competitors run for cover.

Microsoft has far more IP to bring to the table than SCO did. Just off the top of my head, I can imagine Microsoft defending its IP on the FAT and FAT32 file systems (which already require licenses in more visible uses), the NTFS file system, the Remote Desktop Protocol used by Terminal Server, non-LDAP technology used in Active Directory, Windows Media file formats and digital rights management, .Net, and of course, Windows file/print sharing.

Potential enforcement of tangible IP is the most talked-about risk, but I see the greatest threat being CALs (Client Access Licenses). To me, the greatest risk is that Microsoft will assert that all non-Windows systems connected to Windows servers are subject to CALs. Microsoft will cut a deal with Novell to allow Novell to bundle and resell Windows CALs.

The market has been down this road before. AT&T tried to wipe out its biggest threat at the time, BSD Unix, by charging that it incorporated System V. Berkeley effectively won that argument cleaning all of the System V-ness out of its OS. There is plenty of cause now for marking Microsoft IP, and anything that a judge might mistake for it, for cleaning out of OS X and Linux. Interoperability is, after all, a two-way street.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Yager

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?