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Ballmer: Deal with Novell doesn't mean total Linux embrace

'I'm still going to tell you [to buy] Windows, Windows, Windows,' says Microsoft's CEO

By Robert McMillan, IDG News Service, and Eric Lai
November 2, 2006 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Microsoft Corp.'s deal with Novell Inc. to support SUSE Linux on machines that run Windows doesn't mean that Microsoft is embracing Linux wholesale.

"This is to bridge the divide between open-source and proprietary-source software," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at a news conference in San Francisco called to announce the move. "It gives customers greater flexibility in ways they have certainly been demanding."

But "if you want something, I'm still going to tell you [to buy] Windows, Windows, Windows," said Ballmer, who was joined at the announcement by Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian, other executives from both companies and customers.

Microsoft has agreed to offer sales support for SUSE Linux and co-develop technologies with Novell to make it easier for users to run both operating systems on their computers. Microsoft also plans to distribute to customers 70,000 coupons for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support.

"This is a fantastic announcement," said Andi Mann, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. "And to do it so quickly after Oracle's announcement really undercuts Red Hat."

Oracle Corp. announced last week that it would offer discount support to enterprise customers of Red Hat Inc.'s market-leading Linux operating system.

In a statement, Red Hat said, "Two of the most powerful technology companies in the world have made the decision to back Linux within the last six business days. That's great news, as it's even more validation for Linux. The world is moving technologically in our direction. Red Hat's in the best position to compete. We see the market moving past Linux and into middleware and SOA. This is our focus."

Microsoft has taken steps toward Linux and open-source before by opening a Linux technology center, providing Linux plug-ins for its System Management Server product and inking deals with open-source vendors such as MySQL AB, SugarCRM and XenSource Inc., said Mann.

The latest tie-up was Microsoft's strongest admission of Linux and open-source's increased popularity, he said. "Microsoft recognized that if they didn't play nice, they might not be able to play at all," he said.

As part of the deal, Microsoft will agree not to assert rights over patents to any software technology that might be incorporated into SUSE Linux. Protected under this are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers that create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers who are paid to create code that goes into the distribution.

Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel at Microsoft, said it was difficult to come up with a "covenant" between the companies to marry open-source code and proprietary code. "But we sorted out the economics so Novell's customers don't have to," he said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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