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Tony Mobily [opinions]

Message to the Novell executive who signed the agreement with Microsoft [microsoft] [novell]

Novell recently signed an agreement with Microsoft. From the press release:

Under the patent agreement, both companies will make up-front payments in exchange for a release from any potential liability for use of each others patented intellectual property, with a net balancing payment from Microsoft to Novell reflecting the larger applicable volume of Microsoft’s product shipments. Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.

A day later, Ballmer came out with this statement:

The distributors of other versions of Linux cannot assure their customers that Microsoft won't sue for patent infringement. "If a customer says, 'Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?' Essentially, If you're using non-SUSE Linux, then I'd say the answer is yes," Ballmer said.

I guess I should be angry at Novell. However, I realise that companies are actually just people doing their jobs. This is why I strongly think that the Novell Manager who dealt with the agreement with Microsoft should be sacked. Novel should do so as soon as physically possible - every day makes it worse.

I will call this not-so-bright manager "John".

I used to have respect for Novell. I was always a little unsure about them, but their fight against SCO showed Novell's good side. Then, I guess John came along, and thought in his ignorance that he was doing something good, and compromised Novell possibly beyond repair.

John, listen carefully: Microsoft doesn't make a deal with anybody - and I mean anybody - unless the final goal is to send the other party bankrupt; Microsoft will scheme, have "secret plans", misuse whatever power or technology you provide them, and eventually crush you. If you don't believe me, please allow me to refresh your memory - or maybe just tell you the story straight out. Since I can't possibly list every single fishy episode, I will just pick a few.


Microsoft signed a contract with IBM: they will never ever be able to release their own operating system; and due to this, they will be able to "share resources" with IBM in order to release OS/2. Microsoft then releases Windows 3.0. They call it an "Operating Environment". The contract was disputed over the meaning of the term "operating system". IBM didn't fight very well, and they lost. Microsoft walked away with a lot of IBM's code, sold it as "Windows", and made tons of money.


Spyglass develops Spyglass Mosaic, a fantastic internet browser; to do so, Spyglass licenses NCSA's source code, but never used it.

Microsoft needed a browser. So, they licensed Spyglass' code, with this arrangement: Spyglass will get a small quarterly fee, and a portion of the revenues for IE's sale.

The contract didn't talk about a minimum price set for Internet Explorer.

Microsoft gave away Internet Explorer for free -- they obviously worked out that a small percentage of zero is zero.

Eventually, Microsoft and Spyglass made up. I am sure Spyglass hoped for a much better return.Microsoft never mentions Spyglass in their page about Internet Explorer's history. Nice one.


Sendo teams up with Microsoft. Microsoft apparently bought 10% of Sendo, and then walked away with Sendo's customers and technology. From the court's proceedings:

"Sendo alleges that Microsoft, which invested $12 million in the handset firm for a minority stake of about 10 percent, was struggling to break into the wireless industry, and that the software firm "recognized Sendo had the technology and experience it lacked to quickly penetrate this lucrative new market. As such, Microsoft set about through a secret plan ('The Secret Plan') to obtain that technology and know-how from Sendo with the false promises that Microsoft would co-develop, help finance, and the be the 'go to market' partner for Sendo's 2.5G Smartphone, the Z100."

For more information, you can read this article and this other article.

Dear John, do you see a pattern?

John, the list can go on, and on, and on, and on.

In every single case, you'll see this story repeated:

  • a company is convinced by Microsoft that they are offering a once in a lifetime deal;
  • the whole world pays for the mistakee;
  • the "single company" goes bankrupt

So, John, I am sure you had the best of intentions, but please, please just go away. If I were Novell's boss, I would sack you in no time and would try to get the contract cancelled. If you are indeed Novell's boss, congratulations: you are about to disappear, and we will need to work hard and pick up the pieces.

Free Software Magazine's readers: please contribute to this page with more of Microsoft's exploits, especially those ones where a well-meaning company is pushed out of existence by Microsoft's tactics.


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