Novell CEO on the Microsoft deal

Novell CEO on the Microsoft deal

Ron Hovsepian's behind-the-scenes account of how the controversial agreement was reached

Aside from the open letter in response to Ballmer's comments that you posted on your Web site, did you get on the phone with Ballmer and ask him what was going on?

Yes, we did have that communication. I would tell you that Microsoft -- Steve and [General Counsel] Brad [Smith] and Bob [Muglia] -- have been very supportive and understanding of our situation. At the executive level, they've been operating very genuinely -- I have to give them full credit for that.

Do you think the patent cooperation part of the agreement with Microsoft is in the best interest of Novell's customers?

Absolutely. It's good for the customers because they don't have to worry about those things. I'm disappointed that we haven't communicated our intent as clearly [as we should have] to the [Linux] community. The messaging got bogged down.

Did the patent review turn up any possible violations of Microsoft patents in the Linux source code?

We absolutely have made no admissions of any infringements, period, from our point of view. No admissions.

I'm not sure that's the same thing as saying no possible violations have turned up. We did not do a full review as part of the process. [Microsoft] may have; We did not. I think your question was based on an assumption that we did a deep review, and we didn't.

Was there anything on the table during your discussions with Microsoft that ultimately didn't pan out?

A lot of the opening positions, on our side and their side, were things that were probably perceived by the other side as unreasonable. One of the things that was unreasonable for me was [Microsoft's initial position that] Linux could run as a guest on Windows, but not Windows on Linux. That was just a non-starter. It had to be bi-directional so the customer can make that decision.

What about things that were discussed that didn't make the cut?

One that we were very interested in would be running some of their toolsets on our Linux platform -- Visual Studio and other toolsets. That one didn't make the cut.

Was the perennial question of a version of Microsoft Office for Linux discussed?

Yes, that was one of the 'toolsets' I referred to. That one didn't make the cut, either. As an executive, I understand that they're protecting their franchise, and I'm respectful of that.

There have been some reports that GPL version 3 will render your agreement with Microsoft invalid. What's your position on that?

That's a process that's in the works right now, and nothing has been published on what the next round will be.

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