Microsoft deal good for Linux – Novell SA chief

By   |  December 11, 2006

More Linux companies should look at striking a deal with Microsoft. This is the line from Novell SA country manager Stafford Masie who was speaking at the CITI Foss Forum in Cape Town last week.

“This deal is not an exclusive arrangement with Microsoft. We are encouraging Redhat, Ubuntu and others to consider a similar agreement with Microsoft. We are encouraging them … especially from a patent perspective,” said Masie.

“We encourage Shuttleworth and the folks to go and do what we’ve done. Investigate what we’ve done. Don’t be fanatical about it but take a look at it,” said Masie.

Masie said that the free software community should “embrace Microsoft”.

“We should embrace Microsoft’s participation in this community [and] the way they are starting to be participants. Take a look at what they have. Let’s not alienate them. Let’s not be fanatical about them,” said Masie before begging for similar tolerance of Novell from the free software community.

The free software community was a “volatile, passionate group of people” quick to criticise everything, said Masie. “Hopefully the community will understand that Novell’s intention with this agreement is to benefit Linux.”

“We got Microsoft to buy $240 million worth of Linux . That’s 350 000 subscriptions of Linux they are going to distribute worldwide and they are actually doing this in the South African market place today. They actually are. That is a good thing for Linux,” said Masie.

“If we kill Linux Novell dies. We are not trying to kill Linux.”

Software patents
It was on the issue of software patents, however, where Masie was a little less clear of exactly where Novell stood.

“We will never, never, ever utilise our patents to attack or exercise any of our patents on the [Foss] community. The good thing about the covenant is that we are explicitly stating our position with regards patents. Customers don’t like the cloud of risk of liability. Enterprise customers don’t like that risk. What we’ve done with covenant is explicitly take away the risk,” Masie said.

He then said: “Patents are actually bad for innovation. But we will use patents to protect ourselves,” while at the same time suggesting the company would look to working with local initiatives working to oppose software patents.

Masie said, however, that the company was aware that it was out of touch with local patent conditions and that he started a process to re-draft the company’s position on software patents. “We need to look at a Geo-based statement on patents. We concede, we should have been more open about patents.”

“We have an issue locally as we see Microsoft lodging patents locally. We don’t want that,” Masie said.

“Local [patent] systems are the hard ones [but] our official patent position locally is being reviewed.”

Audio copies of Stafford Masie’s presentation and the subsequent question and answer session can be downloaded here:

Stafford Masie presentation:
Ogg format (15MB)
MP3 format (21MB)

Question and answer session:
Ogg format (32MB)
MP3 format (48MB)

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