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The Microsoft/Novell Deal: Has It Divided The Linux Community?

In November, Microsoft and Linux vendor Novell knocked the software industry for a loop with their multifaceted, multimillion-dollar business agreement unveiled. However, the biggest effect may be on Linux, the open source software operating environment that many companies (and some consumers) are increasingly adopting as an alternative to Microsoft's proprietary but pervasive Windows operating system.

Initially announced on news conference Nov. 2, the deal called for Microsoft, long seen as an enemy by many Linux advocates, to start working hand-in-hand with Novell, producer of the SuSE Linux operating system, in areas that included licensing, support, and joint research and development around Windows/Linux interoperability.

Also under the agreement, the two software makers inked a software patents covenant stating that Microsoft won't be able to sue Novell's customers for any potential infringements of Microsoft's patents, and Novell won't be able to sue Microsoft's customers for potential infringements on Microsoft's patents.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars will change hands between Microsoft and Novell over the next three years for software licensing and patent protection, with a net balance of $118 million going to Novell.

The deal does have supporters among industry analysts, ISVs, and VARs, who foresee benefits to Novell and to the advance of Linux in the enterprise. "Novell needs to look at its opportunity to gain Linux customers from highly Microsoft-loyal accounts. And when you consider the money, there'll be a lot of it going into Novell's coffers," says Raven Zachary, an analyst with The 451 Group.

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