Microsoft and Novell jump in bed

The WSJ is reporting that Microsoft and Novell are teaming up — and just let me look outside to see if the sky is falling — to support Linux.

In a webscast today from San Francisco with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian Ballmer acknowledged that Linux plays an important role in the operations of many companies alongside Microsoft’s products.

The deal between the two companies sounds more like a coldwar stalemate than innovative business interest — according to the WSJ the deal hinges around Microsoft agreeing not to file patent infringements against users of Novell’s SuSE Linux and Novell to not sue users of Windows and with with Microsoft offering sales support for SuSE Linux.

The agreement also includes the creation of a joint research facility for both companies to test interoperability of their software which includes further developing virtualisation technologies to better allow one operating system to run on top of the other.

It’s doable now of course but a tighter integration can only be a good thing.

Finally Microsoft would when asked which distribution of Linux works best with Microsoft software recommend Novell’s SuSE Linux. “We definitely want customers who chose to run both Windows and Linux to choose Novell” Mr. Ballmer was quoted as saying.

In fact for Ballmer the new agreement “bridges the divide between open source and proprietary software”. Well as long as you’re Microsoft and Novell — somehow I don’t think we’re going to see a revolution in Microsoft opening up its proprietary formats and to work with all open source developers.

All up it’s interesting news but I think the hype is more impressive than the reality — Microsoft’s only responsibility is to serve its own interests.

Regardless it’s a step forward for open source in the sense of its validation by the biggest commercial software vendor in the world and even though Microsoft will be sticking closely to Novell for its foray into the open source pool (lets be honest here — ‘Shared Source’ is a farce) it none the less validates Linux and open source as pillar for todays businesses.

And a far cry from the days when Microsoft first said Linux was inconsequential then a ‘virus’ on the software world then less secure than Windows and now decides that it’s so good it not only wants to interoperate with it but promote and sell it as well.

The sky isn’t falling but it is does seem rather overcast today…