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Suing your Customers

Ok, I have been biting my tongue for days now, trying to avoid comment on the MS/Novell announcements. I can't stand it any longer. This so reminds me of another scenario (SCO threatening its own customers) that I can't keep my mouth shut. I know it has nothing to do with my blogging category of "The Next Frontier," but as some of you know, a pesky lawsuit caused me a lot of heartburn during my UnitedLinux days, and thus I beg your indulgence.

Let me see if I can explain my incredulity as briefly as possible. Here we have Microsoft, who knows that with almost no exceptions, enterprise Linux users are also Microsoft customers. Why would you threaten to bite the hand that feeds you?

Furthermore, I am no lawyer, but assuming that MOST enterprise users of Linux purchase Linux from commercial entities (Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, Collax, etc.) how does Microsoft explain to their customers that they would rather sue them than the company that facilitated the delivery of this "infringing" code?

A simple hypothetical scenario comes to mind. A major Hollywood studio releases a movie in which a particular actor is featured, but without the actors consent. Instead of suing the studio, the actor goes out and sues every theater that aired the movie, and everyone that bought the DVD. Nuts, right?

And why is Novell taking this on? Roger Levy, of Novell recently said "Customers were afraid they'd get sued if they crossed platforms and this meant that they were hesitating on buying decisions." Hasn't this train already left the station?

A quick scan of Red Hat, Novell, HP, and IBM's web sites shows companies like eTrade, T-Mobile, Audi, Priceline, the FAA, the US Army, Google, and Wyeth, happily deploying Linux. That was just my small sampling--we all know how hard it is to get a customer to agree to a case study, but all you readers out there could list a who's who of F500 companies that use Linux.

I have always wanted to see Novell succeed. I was delighted when they bought SuSE, but I just don't see how this helps them. Someone out there must have a plausible explanation, is there more to this than meets the eye? I wish they had just put the money in the OSDL Legal Defense Fund, sure beats sending more cash to Redmond.

OK, rant over, glad I got it out of my system.

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