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Microsoft to offer sales support and collaborate on technology

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has entered into a partnership with Novell Inc. to offer sales support and technology sharing for Novell's Suse Linux product.

While the deal has yet to be finalized, it represents a surprising new alliance between two warring sides in the operating system world. CEO Steve Ballmer made the announcement at a San Francisco news conference that Linux plays an "important role" in many companies, including Microsoft itself. "We see huge potential upside in these markets."

Novell's Suse Linux is currently the second largest commercial Linux distribution, with first place going to Red Hat. As a result of the announcement, shares in Novell jumped 16% to $6.79.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but one of the high points is the expected construction of a joint research facility where the two companies can design and test their software together. Improvements in compatibility between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice are also expected.

Speculation about the long-term outcome of this union has begun already. Frank Artale, vice-president of XenSource, noted that Microsoft's embracing of Suse Linux as opposed to another particular variant could cause a "halo effect" in that the association between the two could make users choose it over another distribution. The open-source community also may have reservations about using a distribution that is "sleeping with the enemy."

As another part of the deal, Microsoft agreed not to file patent infringement charges against Suse users, and Novell has agreed not to sue users of Windows.

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RE: Union
By tbtkorg on 11/4/2006 12:08:14 PM , Rating: 2
If you like Microsoft Windows, if you enjoy using it and don't really see the point of Linux, then you must find it hard to understand why Microsoft excites such persistent, passionate opposition. What you need to understand is that the opposition is over an extensive, long-established, deeply entrenched pattern of Microsoft behavior, not over any one specific thing Microsoft has done.

I hope that readers who like and admire Microsoft will nevertheless read this post and consider what it has to say. Even if they don't agree, they may at least gain illumination as to why the other side believes as it does.

In analyzing the matter, one must be careful not to conflate two separate issues. The one issue is what constitutes a smart business tactic on Microsoft's part. The other issue is what is good for computer users. If I object that a thing Microsoft has done is bad for computer users, one cannot reply that it was a smart business tactic. That is separate question.

Now, with respect to Java, we know from the "Halloween memos" [] and from other sources that giving Java users additional useful functionality was incidental to Microsoft's motive for tinkering with the Java standard in the first place. Microsoft's underlying motive was to poison the standard by fragmenting it, by ensuring that Java applications developed by Microsoft users would never run quite right on the Sun platform, indicating to Sun users that they needed to "upgrade" to Microsoft. Now, of course, in the abstract, there is nothing wrong as such with a company's attempts to convince its competitor's customers to upgrade and switch vendors -- if this is done honestly. This however is not an abstract case; and the specific case of Microsoft demands closer scrutiny. The whole point of Microsoft's activity was to monopolize, to render fundamentally untenable the position of any competitor who might presume to try to implement Java; to gain power to crush Java developers who failed to pay Microsoft protection money in one form or another. Microsoft's business strategy is not centered around providing a superior product; it is centered around ensuring that no competitor can provide a viable alternative. Such a strategy may benefit Microsoft's shareholders, but it is hard to argue that it is good for you and me.

(Someone will object here that consumers need some dominant industry player like Microsoft to dictate standards. That may or may not be so, but don't you see? The aim of Microsoft's Java assault was to destroy a standard. Microsoft does not care about standards as such one way or the other; any long-time user of Microsoft Word can tell you this. Microsoft cares only about assimilating you and me into its vast system of dependent tributaries.)

Microsoft's poison was not limited to Java. Microsoft tried to poison Web standards in much the same way, only thankfully failed because, in a rare Microsoft blunder, Microsoft joined the Web game a few months too late. This is just one of many other examples of Microsoft's strategy.

Microsoft calls its strategy to poison and monopolize, "embrace and extend."

Bill Gates appears to have made the fundamental strategic judgment years ago that the computer software industry must trend toward a natural economic monopoly, that except in niche markets there would in the end remain only one gigantic software survivor. He wanted to be that survivor, and he was prepared to do almost anything in a business sense to achieve his goal. Except perhaps regarding the unexpected emergence of open source, history has tended to prove Mr. Gates' business foresight right. It is the rest of us who now pay the price for Mr. Gates' vision.

You don't have to dislike Microsoft to appreciate what it's doing here. You may even say, "That's what I would do, too, were I Bill Gates." But the fact that Microsoft is the most skilled, most brutal American monopolist since J.D. Rockefeller does not mean that the rest of us have to like it. Microsoft's extensions to Java had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with helping Java users, and everything to do with helping Microsoft manipulate Java users into helping them destroy Sun. Smart business tactic? Maybe. But I will never condone it, nor will I assist it. Neither should you. Let Microsoft carry its own tainted water up the hill.

The point of this post is not really to convince anyone to abhor Microsoft. I have no power to dissuade people who have already decided (mistakenly, I think) that Microsoft is a force for good in computerdom. I know this. However, the next time Microsoft adds incidental additional functionality to its implementation of a non-Microsoft standard, before you commit the error of praising Microsoft for its commitment to its users, consider what you have learned here of Microsoft's "embrace and extend" strategy, and decide for yourself if you aren't being manipulated by Microsoft more than you are being helped.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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