It came as a mighty surprise and caused a huge uproar in the Open Source community , The $400 million dollar deal between MS & Novell would allow Novell SuSe Linux customers to use the software without being sued by Microsoft for patent infringement. The agreement will also make it easier for the two companies’ operating systems, SuSe Linux and Microsoft Windows, to work together more easily.
But immediately after the deal was signed there was an Open Letter from the Samba Community asking Novell to reconsider the agreement , which was considered to be a divisive agreement and which was fundamentally against what Free Software & Open source community stood for.
Jeremy Allison of SAMBA fame who worked for Novell and led the crusade against the agreement was very forthcoming with his view and as a mark of strong protest and his principle stand against the deal resigned from Novell.
Not every one seems to be opposed to this deal , IBM which wholeheartedly supported the Novell-MS agreement stated that it was good for Linux and for interoperability between Windows and Linux , Scott Handy, IBM's VP of Worldwide Linux and Open Source said, "We have never seen any need for patent protection for Linux, and we don't see any need for it now." Still, Handy believes that the rest of Novell and Microsoft's agreements will help Linux to grow ever larger.
The most contentious issue seems to be the patent agreement and its a well known fact that Opensource Software dosent use and opposes any kind of patents which can restricts its use or violate the GPL license in Letter and Spirit.
The disenchantment is in a clause of the agreement that states that Novell will make royalty payments to Microsoft so the company will not assert rights to patents it may hold over any technology that is or will be incorporated into SUSE Linux.
The Billion dollar question would be what kind of Patents does MS has over Linux ? Is Novell acknowledging the fact that MS holds any kind of patents over linux ? If not why are they paying royalty payments to Microsoft so that they wont assert any patent rights.
Protected under this part of the deal are individuals and noncommercial open-source developers that create code and contribute to the SUSE Linux distribution, as well as developers getting paid to create code that goes into the distribution.
I should add here that though the deal was well crafted taking advantage of a loop hole that exists in GPL v2 license in that Microsoft has not given Novell a patent license, and thus, section 7 of GPL version 2 does not come into play. Instead, Microsoft offered a patent license that is rather limited to Novell's customers alone."
But as Richard Stallman the Guru of Free Software movement stated " there is a silver lining here it turns out that perhaps it's a good thing that Microsoft did this now, because we discovered that the text we had written for GPL version 3 would not have blocked this, but it's not too late and we're going to make sure that when GPL version 3 really comes out it will block such deals. We were already concerned about possibilities like this, namely, the possibility that a distributor might receive a patent license which did not explicitly impose limits on downstream recipients but simply failed to protect them."
Thus, the next draft of the GPLv3 will block the kind of language used in the Novell/Microsoft agreement. Stallman explained, "We're going to say not just that if you receive the patent license, but if you have arranged any sort of patent licensing that is prejudicial among the downstream recipients, that that's not allowed. That you have to make sure that the downstream recipients fully get the freedoms that they're supposed to have.
The end result was that there is a greater consensus in the Open Source Community that there a greater need and acceptance for the new GPL v3 License which has many clause included supporting anti-DRM and anti-Patent measures. Infact few opensource software already have made up the mind to move to GPL v3 once its finally released , Jeremy Allison confirmed that this was indeed Samba's plan, stating that "Yes, we're definitely going GPLv3 -- we've always said so. We're big supporters of the GPLv3 ideals." Sun Microsystem has also indicated that once the final draft of GPL v3 is out they would move their premier Operating System Solaris and even Java to GPL v3 , Java has just been released under GPL v2 license.
Being associated with Novell for the past 2 and half year and working on arguably what I would consider as the best Engineered Linux specially its rich set of GUI Functionality and Tools to administer , I would consider that the Novell-MS deal was badly timed , Specially when Novell was gaining the market share against arch rival Redhat and was emerging as the pre-eminent Commercial Linux Distro outclassing Redhat , Novell was not only gaining Business Ground against Redhat but also winning many open source communities Minds & Hearts
But with this agreement , though Novell might have gained huge financial benefit out of this deal and would have benefited its customer base and other Open Source Project like OpenOffice and Mono , but it lost most of the good will in the Free/Open Source Community and the Moral authority to speak for its cause .
The sustain good will of the Open Source Community cannot be ignored by any organization in the long run if it has to succeed in the Open Source domain as it is the Strength of the Community and its Broad Participation from all backgrounds which has made FLOSS/Linux what it is and where it stands today. It would take a herculean effort for Novell to regain back the good will and it needs to be seen if Novell would take the next step to correct the deviation or will chart its own course.