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Microsoft Talks up Novell Linux Deal

The deal Microsoft struck with Novell that guaranteed interoperability between Windows and SuSE Linux (and supposedly offered Novell and its customers amnesty from Microsoft's patent wrath) lit the industry on fire when the two companies first announced it in 2006.

Then, it sort of went away. Oh, sure, every now and then some open source zealot would attack the pact or some Microsoft defender would...well, defend it, but most partners and folks in the industry seemed to more or less forget about it. Until this week. Now, Microsoft is talking about it again, and we're not really sure why.

Redmond went out of its way this week to trumpet the success of the SuSE deal, saying that more than 500 customers have bought into the program since November of 2006. Wow, 500 customers. That's...actually not all that impressive.

As always, we are big fans of interoperability at RCPU, so we like that aspect of the deal. We're not such big fans of the patent saber-rattling Microsoft has done over the last few years, given that the company has always done it without getting into any sort of specifics as to exactly which patents Linux supposedly violates. (Give us specifics, Microsoft, and we'll probably be on your side. Until then...)

Pundits say that it's the interoperability, not fear of patent lawsuits, which has attracted the customers who have bothered to sign up for the Windows-SuSE pairing. We can believe that. What we can't believe is that Microsoft, a company with more than half a million partners and many millions of customers, is touting the participation of a mere 500 companies in the Novell deal over a span of more than three years.

Surely 500 customers doesn't represent success by Microsoft's standards -- or even by Novell's. So why bring this touchy issue back up now? Does Microsoft want to send a message that it's still got a patent gun to Linux's head? (That's kind of what we suspect.) Is it trying to shore up Novell -- target of a recent failed acquisition attempt -- for some reason? Or is somebody in Redmond seriously stoked that a few hundred customers have bought into the Windows-SuSE model? The world may never know...

When is the last time you thought about Windows and SuSE Linux? Do you care anything about the deal? Have your say at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 23, 2010