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Red Hat's Mark Webbink Responds to Novell's Letter to the Community
Tuesday, November 21 2006 @ 06:14 PM EST

Red Hat Deputy General Counsel has now responded to Novell's letter to the community, and I'd say the man is from Missouri. He doesn't accept their list of excuses, and he says "the deal they entered can best be understood as appeasement."
Novell wants us to believe their position on open source and patents hasn't changed. I'm having a hard time buying that argument.

I'll publish the entire statement, so you can easily have access to it, because he responds to each point on Novell's list, and so you can compare it also to OIN's statement, as well as to Novell's letter.

************************

Peace In Our Time

As a history buff, reading the Novell and Microsoft open letters this morning conjured up the image of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain standing in front of 10 Downing Street in 1938 and declaring: "My good friends this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time."

We all know how well that turned out.

Before someone suggests that I am comparing Microsoft or Novell to either of the parties to that 1938 agreement, that's not the point. The point is appeasement, specifically the Merriam-Webster definition of "appease": "to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles." One simply has to ask of Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO, "Ron, what were you thinking?"

Microsoft's principle objective in this exercise was to get someone ostensibly from the free and open source software community to acknowledge the tacit validity of Microsoft's patent portfolio. And despite Hovsepian's protestations to the contrary, Microsoft has now obtained that in the form of Novell. But at what cost to Novell?

Hovsepian says the deal was all about interoperability and joint sales agreements. But interoperability is a two-way street, and interoperability in the arena of virtualization will only occur when Microsoft refrains from trying to contractually control the behavior and choice of their customers in Microsoft's Vista licensing agreements.

Hovsepian later appeals to the free and open source community to forgive this action based on all of the other actions Novell has taken in fighting software patents, but for the most part his itemized list just doesn't hold together.

Novell wants us to believe their position on open source and patents hasn't changed. I'm having a hard time buying that argument.

Mark Webbink


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