Novell, Microsoft to Partner on Linux?

Updated: Sources say Novell and Microsoft will announce a deal that could increase options for Windows and Linux users.

Sources close to Novell indicated that a deal with Microsoft concerning Linux would be announced Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. Pacific time in San Francisco.

While this may sound as likely as George Bush and John Kerry singing a duet together, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Microsoft will be announcing that it will offer sales support for Novells SUSE Linux family.

In addition, it said, the two companies will work together on technologies that will make it easier for users to run both SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 and Windows XP and Vista on the same desktop.

On top of this, Microsoft, according to the WSJ, is expected to announce that it wont use its patents against any software incorporated into SUSE Linux.

Historically, Novell and Microsoft have been archrivals long before Linux entered the picture. Under Ray Noorda, Novells recently deceased legendary former CEO, the companies fought like cats and dogs over the early network server market.

Before Linux was a gleam in Linus Torvalds eye, Microsoft with NT and Novell with NetWare warred over the PC LANs. Eventually, Microsoft won, but it was never an easy battle and several lawsuits followed in its wake.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read an eWEEK Labs review of Novells SLED 10 and its appeal for Windows users.

In 2004, Microsoft announced that it was paying $536 million to end an antitrust battle with Novell. Novell had brought antitrust actions against Microsoft because of what it said were illegal actions against NetWare. In return, Novell withdrew from the then current legal case against Microsoft in the European Union.

This, however, was not the last instance of Novell and Microsoft butting heads. The very same week that the NetWare antitrust action was been settled, Novell sued Microsoft for damages arising from Microsofts efforts to eliminate competition in the office application market during the mid-90s when Novell owned the WordPerfect word-processing application and the Quattro Pro spreadsheet application.

While part of this lawsuit has been thrown out, this suit is still in court. Its quite possible though that if Microsoft and Novell do announce a significant deal Nov. 2 that putting this issue to rest will be part of it.

As yet, while the two companies have done some work together with NetWare, GroupWise, Windows and Exchange interoperability, there has been nothing of any real significance. In particular, Novell and Microsoft have not worked together before with anything to do with Linux. Of course, Microsoft has never done anything to make life easier for Linux interoperability

Both Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian are expected to speak in a joint press conference. At that time, further details on whats what with appears to be a revolutionary deal will be revealed.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include background information.

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