Now the gloves come off. Ballmer is, according to this article in eWeek "Ballmer Invites Patent Talks with Competing Linux Vendors," offering the same terms to the rest of the Linux vendors, if they'd like to shoot themselves in the foot too:
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said his company is open to talking to other Linux distributors about reaching mutual patent coverage deals similar to the agreement signed Nov. 2 with Novell.
Such talks would be a good idea, Ballmer suggested, since now only Novell's SUSE Linux customers are the only Linux vendors that have any assurance that Microsoft won't sue for patent infringement....
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 suspect that [customers] will take that issue up with their distributor," Ballmer said. Or if customers are considering doing a direct download of a non-SUSE Linux version, "they'll think twice about that," he said.
"A good idea", as in it would be a shame if anything were to happen to your company? Man, this is just like when SCO was making the same type of bully offer in 2003, only with copyrights. Microsoft must think that project failed because SCO bungled the job. I guess it goes to show that when you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. That's not what happened, although they bungled it. What happened is this: when you attack Linux, people despise you and don't want to do business with you any more.
Microsoft is claiming it has rights to Linux, that some vaguely defined IP rights are being infringed. So did SCO. That doesn't make it true.
On that research facility, they're looking for a spot now somewhere equidistant between Washington and Utah, where they can set up to create a Born-to-Fail XML/ODF translator:
One of the key goals of the collaboration effort is to build file format conversion technology that will provide greater interoperability between the OpenDocument and Open XML file formats. Novell and Microsoft are not trying to develop a file format that is optimized to work only with a particular version of Open Office, Ballmer said.
Nor will the collaboration team attempt to build file converters that can make files 100 percent compatible between the two file formats, he said. But it will achieve the level of interoperability that customers can work with, he said.
By no means! Who'd want a file converter that works 100% compatibly with Microsoft? Not Microsoft, obviously. Is this transparent or what? The research facility will be ODF's tombstone, or at least that's how it looks to me. Novell, I hear, hired the guy who wrote the ODF converter that already exists, that I heard already does the job beautifully, so if anyone knows how to write one that won't work just exactly right, he'd be your man.
So, then. No more surrogate lawsuits. It's full steam ahead, straight up FUD, and I think that means SCO has no more hope of any behind-the-scenes indirect plausibly-deniable financial support.
Now about that offer, perhaps Microsoft would care to be specific about what patents it wishes to claim are being infringed? No? You mean we have to just wonder if they are legitimate or fantasies like SCO's copyright claims turned out to be? Do we feel lucky? Would one call that type of vague threat FUD, perchance?
Here's Red Hat's response on its website:
If you click on the arrow, you find their clear and refreshing answer:
It was inevitable. The best technology has been acknowledged.
The relentless march of open source is shaking up the industry by freeing customers from proprietary lock-in and lack of choice.
We believe in the community.
We believe in collaboration.
We believe in choice.
We believe interoperability is created by open standards.
Just as they have for Apache, BIND, DNS, Eclipse, Fedora, Firefox, Hibernate, JBoss, Kerberos, LDAP, MySQL, Perl, PHP, Python, PostgreSQL, Sendmail, Tomcat. The list goes on. Where would customers be without these technologies?
We will not compromise. ...
Q: What do these announcements mean for Red Hat?
A: It means Linux has won. The world's largest software companies are saying what customers have known for years: Open source innovation delivers better software and better value.
Q: Did Red Hat consider a similar patent deal with Microsoft?
A: An innovation tax is unthinkable. Free and open source software provide the necessary environment for true innovation. Innovation without fear or threat. Activities that isolate communities or limit upstream adoption will inevitably stifle innovation.
We believe so strongly in this that we made a critical promise to our customers five years ago:
"To the extent any party exercises a Patent Right with respect to Open Source/Free Software which reads on any claim of any patent held by Red Hat, Red Hat agrees to refrain from enforcing the infringed patent against such party for such exercise ('Our Promise')."
Anything less would not be genuine. 200,000+ customers trust our Promise. 80+% of commercial Linux customers choose us every day. That's leadership--which respects the needs of the community and delivers the promise of open source to our customers.
So there you have it. An innovation tax is unthinkable. Red Hat will not compromise. The lines are clearly drawn. Update: Stephen Shankland noticed on the FAQ page that Red Hat now indemnifies also, and he got this additional info from Mark Webbink:
"As with any indemnification provision, if (a customer) were to get sued for intellectual-property infringement over code they got from us, the provision of the indemnification language kicks in. At that point, we step into their shoes" to handle the legal attack, said Mark Webbink, Red Hat's deputy general counsel....
"We still think the earlier version of the Open Source Assurance was the far more critical thing, and we'll continue to stand behind that," Webbink said.
But the company decided adding indemnification was worthwhile.
"Our management and board looked at it and said, 'Look, this isn't worth a hill of beans, but if saying it will make people feel better, we'll say it.' We've added it to the program," Webbink said.
I'm very sad about Novell. Whatever they thought they were doing, they are now Microsoft's FUD puppy, and contractually they will be having to repeat Microsoft's FUD with every deal, I think. Every time they tell a prospect that they have a patent peace with Microsoft, they are implying that one needs one, and the damage to Linux's good name is obvious right there. How could Novell not see that? Is it too late to nix this devilish deal? The eWeek article says the pact was signed minutes before the announcement. Could Ron say Ballmer threatened to throw a chair at him if he didn't sign? Joke. Joke.
If it's not too late, please think about it. You might find it instructive to read this interview from 2000 with Rene Schmidt, then executive VP of Corel's Linux product group, on how great the newly announced partnership with Microsoft was going to be for Corel Linux:
And the agreement, or partnership, or alliance, whatever you want to call it, with Microsoft is not anti-Linux or anything. It is really about .Net. It is really about the Web.... [Linux is] not really any different than any other platform, whether it is a Macintosh platform or a Windows platform that provides services through the application. So from our point of view it is not something that hampers what we are doing on Linux. In fact, it provides new opportunities in Linux.
Say, it's just six years later. Where might I go to get Corel Linux? Oh, it was put to sleep? Hint. Hint. Catch my drift?
I have my doubts that any monopoly is allowed to muscle its competition even with legitimate patents, if such even exist. In any case, if you've ever dealt with a bully, you know the last thing that works is trying to placate him by giving in. At least publish what patents are allegedly infringed in SUSE, so the rest of the Linux world can evaluate and pull out anything like Mono or whatever it is that was threatened or research and disprove any allegation. Not everyone even includes Mono, because of worries about Microsoft and patents, so if that's what this is about, please just say so. I think Novell owes that much to the community. They are selling the community's code, after all.
There is a full transcript up on Microsoft's site now of the joint announcement from yesterday, so you can read every gruesome word for yourself. Then hold it up next to Red Hat's statement, and then ask yourself, who would *you* rather do business with?
Hey, even the Mob prefers doing business with men they know they can trust.