Microsoft Hopes to Bolster Novell Deal

Critics still rail at linux agreement despite new studies

Microsoft officials are hoping to let numbers make the argument for them.

The company is using positive findings from several surveys it sponsored to offset the open-source communitys vocal criticism of the patent provisions in its recent deal with Novell and to tout the benefits of its upcoming Windows Vista operating system.

However, critics continue to rail against the Microsoft-Novell deal, which they say is divisive and betrays the free software community, and industry observers continue to debate how quickly Vista will be adopted.

The survey to gauge market perception of the recent collaboration between Microsoft and Novell, conducted by market research company Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and released Dec. 12, found that technology decision makers were upbeat about the agreement to improve interoperability between Microsofts Windows Server and Novells SUSE Linux. For example, nine out of 10 of those polled said they approved of the agreement, saying it would benefit IT customers and increase the interoperability of IT systems, while 86 percent said they believed that the agreement removed potential customer risks around IP (intellectual property) and software patent infringement.

But some in the free software and open-source community, such as the Samba Team, are unhappy with the patent provision in the deal and have asked Novell to undo it. In a public letter to Novell Nov. 12, Samba—which provides free software for systems running Linux and Unix with Windows-compatible file and print services—said that it "disapproves strongly" of the actions taken by Novell, of Waltham, Mass.

"For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the free software community. We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the free software community," said the Samba letter.

Others, such as open-source luminary Bruce Perens, have sent an open letter to Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian that says the software patent agreement "betrays the rest of the free software community, including the very people who wrote Novells own system, for Novells sole financial benefit." More than 2,900 people have signed the letter.

Jason Perlow, a systems architect and open-source specialist with Unisys 3D Visual Enterprise High Performance Center, in Malvern, Pa., is taking a more measured approach, saying any cooperation between Microsoft and a Linux vendor is a positive thing.

"As long as the open-source community is not encumbered with any responsibility or admission of patent guilt or liability to Microsoft, this is a good scenario for the IT business community," Perlow said.

Justin Steinman, Novells product marketing director for Linux, said the dissent over the deal was from a vocal minority. "We have several very large customers who are near to closing with us as a direct response to this deal. The words of the few were pretty loud, but the actions of the many speak even louder," Steinman said.

David Kaefer, director of business development for IP and licensing at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., said the survey "is consistent with the customers that Microsoft has talked to."

The other Microsoft-commissioned study, which was released Dec. 11 by IDC, looked at the potential economic impact of Vista in the United States in its first year. The study said that for every dollar of Microsoft revenue from Vista, the ecosystem beyond Microsoft will reap $18 in revenues. The study also said Vista-related employment will reach 18 percent of U.S. IT jobs in the softwares first year. While much of this will represent a shift from Windows XP-related employment, the report said that 60 percent of the growth in Windows-related employment will be driven by Vista.

A Window on the Linux Deal

A Microsoft-commissioned study showed support for its partnership with Novell.

Some of the key findings include:

* 90 percent of IT professionals surveyed said they approve of the deal

* More than two-thirds said they are more likely to deploy Novells SUSE Linux in light of the collaboration

* 70 percent said they are more likely to deploy Linux if it has IP rights

* 90 percent said its the vendors responsibility to work out IP issues

Source: Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates