The New Linux Distro

How much does it cost to buy you? Do you have a price? Can you be paid off?

I’m sure many of the CEO’s and CTO’s of various Linux companies are now asking themselves this very question this week (or should be asking themselves) as Microsoft announced yet another “patent deal”…this time, with LG Electronics.

With this, the Xandros deal, the Novell Deal, and anything else Microsoft has up its sleeve (I look for several other distros to “indemnify” themselves in the next few months…for example, Linspire and Mandriva are two prime targets for MS…the bullseye is probably painted) I think that Microsoft has created it’s own “Linux Distribution” so to speak. Let me share with you why I think they have…

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Guilty by Association

I remember a time in high school when we had a substitute teacher. This teacher was previously retired but still subbed in from time to time. His look on things was of the old school circa 1960…so he ran quite a tight ship and didn’t appreciate any adverse feedback or smart remarks from the students. I never had a problem with him until the day that I chuckled at a fellow classmate who was in a tug of war match with another student over a text book (evidently, one of them stole the other student’s textbook…whatever) and the teacher decided to get in the fray…so here we have 2 students and a teacher pulling on a textbook in three different directions. I laughed aloud…it was silly to see an older teacher and two ‘punks’ as he’d call them pulling on that book.

I was immediately reprimanded and given detention. When I asked what I did, the response was “apparently nothing but you’re going to stay after anyway”. When I pressed harder for an explanation, I was told that since I thought ‘my two buddies’ were funny, I was staying after. I had been caught in a perplexing situation many people, groups and companies find themselves in…I was guilty by association.

I was reading an article at Linux Today earlier and saw this line from the article, which was penned in defense of Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (and rightly so…I have no idea why people would call SJVN a shill…he’s the farthest thing from it). I’m not so much concerned with people attacking SJVN so much as I am with the editor’s (it’s an editor’s note) second item that he’s bugged by:

“The other reaction that bugged me was this guilt-by-association that’s been glommed onto openSUSE. Why does this product and its developers suddenly have to take the fall for the actions of Novell?”

So…people shouldn’t do this. We all know that it isn’t fair…but the main fact is they are doing this and have always done this, just like that teacher of mine in high school. I wanted to understand why people aren’t making the connection that openSuse shouldn’t be held accountable for Novell’s actions…but then it hit me…The technology and code being sunk into openSuse as a test ground will one day make it into the Novell Desktop…which, as part of the now famous deal, will make money for Microsoft.

When you look at it in this logical manner, I don’t blame the people the article is condemning for targeting openSuse and I don’t see how anyone can blame them. How many Linux users out there do you know that want to bankroll Microsoft?

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What if Red Hat Bought Novell?

There’s been some discussion on various news websites and blogs about what Red Hat will do thanks to the Novell-Microsoft ‘covenant’. I discussed my take on things with my previous post on the subject. Now that I’ve had a chance to catch up on my reading on the ‘covenant’ I’ve come to another conclusion…Red Hat will do 1 of 2 things.

  1. Nothing
  2. Buy Novell

I read some interesting thoughts on the ‘deal’ and even some speculation that Red Hat might have to approach Microsoft to seek indemnification in a similar fashion as Novell did this past week. I think that this is reaching a bit. Red Hat already has indemnification built into their license. Red Hat is comfortable right now posting huge numbers and enjoying the success it deserves. Why it would want to bring itself to Microsoft’s doorstep is beyond me. I see Red Hat doing absolutely nothing about this…business as usual.

But what if Red Hat bought Novell? THAT would be something unexpected…and it would be a major thorn in Microsoft’s side because they’d have to honor their ‘covenant’ with SuSe Linux. Well, ok, they don’t have to honor it…but if they want to look like a good company they would.

Think about it…Sun was actually considering buying Novell not long ago…or there was speculation they were. Oracle has looked at buying Novell. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Red Hat swoop in and buy Novell?

Think about it…SuSe is the #2 player for Commercial Linux. What would Microsoft do? They wouldn’t play tiddly-winks with #2 now would they? Nope. They’d snap up that company and move forward churning profits. I think Red Hat buying Novell would be a Novel idea (pun intended).

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Novell is Now the New SCO

Take the second highest ranked distribution of Linux on the planet. Show the community that your developers actually care about desktop Linux. Show your attention to detail. Show your sense of duty to the community by offering that desktop for free. Develop a robust community surrounding that distribution you offer for free. Now throw it all away in one swift, idiotic motion.

If you live under a rock and haven’t heard of the Novell Microsoft ‘deal’ then please read about it then come back to find out how Novell is the new SCO. And by the way, how is it that Novell places the link above in the ‘coolsolutions’ section of its website under ‘tips’? That’s reaching quite a bit. I wouldn’t consider this a coolsolution at all..

If there was a bonehead move of the year award, Novell would win it with this latest one.

So how is Novell the new SCO? First and foremost, I’m not the first one to talk about the correlation between this deal and SCO’s indemnification licenses…Groklaw has detailed postings on it. Let’s look at this concept a bit more. This deal between Microsoft and Novell isn’t about getting Linux to play nice with Windows…it’s about patents, intellectual property, and indemnification licenses. All your patents are belong to Microsoft…well, maybe they don’t…but believe me, Microsoft would like them to. The language of the agreement puts you right in the mindset that Novell is selling indemnification licenses to their customers just like SCO. Look closely at #2 on this article, then tell me I’m crazy.

Thus, I now dub Novell “Sir ScoVell”, champion of allowing Microsoft to make bogus profits and also making bogus profits yourself while painting a target on all other distros and spreading FUD in the community. As groklaw reported many years ago, SCO sold those same licenses to its customers to make money for itself. What’s in this for ScoVell? Where are their interests? One can be sure that the community is not where they are storing those interests. One thing is sure; they’re going to make money on those licenses just like SCO did.

Microsoft isn’t a company one hears about when discussing trust. Just a few years ago circa 2001, Microsoft said Linux was a cancer. Have they changed that much since then? No they haven’t. What has changed is the world around them. They realize that it isn’t cool to say things like “Linux is Cancer” or “Linux is Communism” anymore because too many of their customers use Linux now. Saying this would alienate them from their own customers. They had to do something to show that they were part of the solution and not part of the problem. Enter ScoVell Deal.

ScoVell has waltzed into a tangled, proprietary, close source environment…one they can profit from and one they can pay Microsoft to be a member of as well. They’re in this muddy mix and are trying to drag the GPL along with them.

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