Novell CEO Has No Regrets About Microsoft Deal

Ron Hovsepian argues that the deal has been good for Linux adoption as well as for Novell, pointing to several large deals that would not have been done had the Microsoft agreement not been in place.

SALT LAKE CITY—While Novells controversial patent deal with Microsoft got a lot of attention at the companys annual BrainShare conference here this week, CEO Ron Hovsepian is unapologetic about the move.

He argues that the deal has been good for Linux adoption as well as for Novell, pointing to several large deals done recently that would not have happened had the Microsoft agreement not been in place.

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The part of the deal Novell struck with Microsoft that has most angered some in the open-source community is the covenant not to sue, which Hovsepian told eWEEK in an interview is "an agreement that is squarely driven off of our desire to help our customers."

"So, while the agreement we signed has to do with interoperability, one of the elements that was added at the request of Microsoft was a covenant not to sue customers. Thats what it ended up becoming," he said.

The reality of the agreement is that Microsoft and Novell can sue one another as there is no cross-licensing under the agreement—it is really just a covenant not to sue customers, to keep that discussion away from customers, he said.

"We would not violate GPL2 [General Public License 2]—we are very committed to that. We are very committed to Linux, and the bottom line is that we are building an extra layer on top of our public position already on patents. We have also invested in the Open Invention Network, which is another layer of protection, and we view this [deal with Microsoft] as just another layer of protection for the customer so they will adopt Linux into their enterprise," he said.

/zimages/7/28571.gifFor more on Novells defense of its patent agreement with Microsoft, click here.

The original proposal between Novell and Microsoft did not include the covenant not to sue, Hovsepian said. "That was one of the business things [Microsoft] wanted out of it, and, in defense of them, it was really probably secondary or tertiary in the discussions and it took a little bit of time for that to come out in those discussions," he said.

Asked by eWEEK if the deal would have still gone ahead had Novell refused to agree to the covenant not to sue, Hovsepian said, "I honestly dont know. We were very centered on trying to do something around interoperability for customers. I honestly dont know. Its an interesting question."

Asked if he regrets agreeing to that part of the deal given the controversy that erupted over it, Hovsepian said not at all. Part of Novells maturation as a business and a member of the open-source community and custodian to that community means that it sits in a unique position, where it is balancing customer relationships with community relationships.

"It is not our job to dictate what happens to the community. They are going to dictate it, and were going to work with it. But we recognize that it is customers who give us the life blood to help grow the community, and if this is a need on their side, we have to balance all those pieces together, and thats why we made the decision," he said.

Next Page: What Hovsepian does regret.