Microsoft paid Novell $355.6 million in 2007 - Who's Novell's daddy?

Microsoft is paying the bills for Novell. How can this be good for open source?

Deep Throat once advised, "Follow the money." That same advice applies today to see which side Novell's bread is buttered on. If you look at who is paying Novell today, as ChannelWeb did, it's Microsoft, to the tune of $355.6 million according to Novell's 10-K.

With all due respect to Novell, I'm not sure scavenging in my top competitor's pockets for lunch money is something to crow about. Interoperability is great. Being a vassal to Microsoft is not. (The word is appropriate, Novell - look it up.)

How can Microsoft removing Novell from effective Linux competition possibly be good for the market, or for Novell, long term? I understand that it's a lot of money, and that's great. In fact, I would assume that nearly every penny of Novell's profit in 2007 came from Microsoft's wallet.

But this isn't a recipe for success. Microsoft does not have Linux's best interests at heart. The minute Novell becomes more of a threat to Microsoft than Red Hat is, Novell will be shunted aside. In the meantime, Microsoft is Novell's sugar daddy, making Novell a mere vassal to Microsoft. Novell can't afford to cut off the income from Microsoft. If Microsoft says "Jump!", Novell's one option is to try to figure out how high. The jump is obligatory at this point.

Again, I sincerely am glad to see Novell doing better. I just wish that it were on terms that were good for open source, not Microsoft. Competition is about winning, not succumbing.

$355.6 million is a significant amount of money for Novell. It's not for Microsoft. It puts Microsoft in Novell's driver's seat. This can't be good for Novell, for Linux, for the industry.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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