[sclug] Open Letter to the Community from Novell

pieter Claassen pieter at claassen.co.uk
Wed Nov 22 10:06:40 UTC 2006

On Wednesday 22 November 2006 08:58, Martin Summers wrote:

> On the other hand, it might be good for home users, depending on what
> comes out of it: For example, it may make a deal for proprietory video
> and audio codecs to be available for Linux. This may be a poor example,
> but I am sure that there are other technologies and file formats where
> this deal might just bridge the gap. 

This is dangerous thinking (I think). It is clear from MS's press release that 
they do feel Linux infringes some of their patents and that the deal with 
Novell will provide them with legal leverage (while they have exempted Novell 
from persecution) to recover fees while still embedding their standards even 
further into the OSS community (without having to accept limitations imposed 
by the GPL). I would recommend that the OSS community not 
support/use/encourage the use of proprietary standards because once the stuff 
is embedded, you will be asked to pay a small fee whether you like it or not 
(or large one if you buy an IBM laptop and want to NOT have windows on it).


On Wednesday 22 November 2006 09:29, Patrick wrote:
> My puzzle was "How can they possibly make any money off selling Linux?"
> I mean, these guys sell NetWare to 1000s of users at a time. ?How on
> Earth can free software fit into that sales model?
> This deal with Microsoft looks like an effort to solve that puzzle.

Patrick, free as in speech doesn't mean you don't pay for the software ;-) The 
free software model as I interpret it is about providing clients with the 
choice to use you or a fair alternative to use a competitor, rather than 
justifying a business model that exclusively locks clients into you. This 
business model (called a monopoly) inevitably leads to inefficiency. The 
bottom line is that once you have your client locked in, you just don't have 
to spend that much effort to keep them.

Novell used to exist in the market (as far as I am concerned) because they had 
a damn good network file share product. Growing big, bulky and in the shadow 
and influence of the stupendously successful monopolistic MS, they focused on 
proprietary technologies and nearly always lost (think NDS vs. LDAP), slowly 
clawing their way down the food chain. Then they figured that rather than 
keeping on losing network storage market share to Linux, why not buy a Linux 
distro and get into the market using FREE software? Seems a reasonable idea. 
But then the MS deal came off and they were caught with the pants down. What 
they thought was a simple commercial agreement between conventional thinkers 
(hey, we all know how the traditional software market works!) turned out to 
be a strategic move by MS to attack the OSS front. It is hard when you are 
stupid ;-)

As to what Novell should do to make money? I really think that they should ask 
their highly paid board to come up with this answer, but my 2c is: Their 
investment and contribution to the OSS world (Ximian, Suse etc.) will make 
them indispensable to clients who need support from those who know.  Yes, 
they will have vastly reduced revenue from software licensing (but this is 
going to go anyhow as Linux gets more embedded because who will pay for 
something that they can get for free (as in beer this time)). So, Novell, be 
happy to sell your expertise and time to clients (like the big 5 do) and make 
your money out of service agreements/professional services and custom 

Pieter Claassen

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