Nov 2, 2006
As I sit in my hotel room at a California education technology conference, where I have been presenting and promoting open technology use in K-12 environments, it is difficult to quantify the shock of the recent announcement by Novell that they are, for all intents and purposes, partnering with Microsoft. While most commentary thus far has spun the deal as some sort of validation that Microsoft is finally recognizing the viability of Linux and OSS in the marketplace, or that this is some sort of response to Oracle's Red Hat Rip Off, I see this as a new threat to open source of a greater magnitude than the community has ever seen.

To understand my concern, you have to believe, as I do, that anything that reduces competition reduces choice, and ultimately hurts everyone. Consider the force of Novell's patents in the industry as a whole - their mere existence, alongside Novell's promises to protect the open source community from patent threats has undoubtedly bolstered the confidence of open source developers and vendors, as Novell has, up until now been "on their side." Now, Novell and the combined weight of its patents are behind the company to whom the success of open source is the greatest threat. This will undoubtedly influence corporate customers who are interested in and/or using Linux to make sure that their Linux distribution of choice is Suse Linux if, for no other reason than to protect themselves from potential litigation. As Ballmer said, "let's get you a version of Linux that protects our (Microsoft's) intellectual property."