More on that press conference

Unfortunately, being behind on the modern-day business lingo (since when has “teaming” been a word?) I struggled slightly to keep up with the conference. It does seem to me, however, that Microsoft has teamed up with Novell to help with two areas:

  • virtualisation
  • interoperability

Both of these issues have been a problem and I think we should welcome any attempt to solve them … cautiously.

Virtualisation is a process where you run a virtual machine on your computer. This virtual machine behaves like a blank setup and allows you to test other operating systems within it. Interestingly, Microsoft has been keen on this idea for quite a while, now releasing the 2007 Beta of Virtual PC for free, and guaranteeing that their Virtual PC software will remain free for evermore. An example of virtualisation in action – you could run Linux from inside a virtual machine on your Windows PC. This could be used as an XWindows client or SSH terminal to enable you to control another Linux machine.

Interoperability has been a major problem for a long time. Trying to use two different operating systems only works if you use open document formats which can be read easily on both systems. During the press conference, a Novell engineer announced that they would be building translators between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office. I think that this is a good thing.

However it’s always worth remembering Microsoft’s history – they don’t like the Open Source movement. Here’s an alternative spin on the situation:

The word on the street is that Novell had some deep patent dirt on Microsoft and went proudly to demand their bounty.

So how was it that at the end of the day they ended up affirming software patents (something Microsoft wants and Free software people hate), set a precedent that open source distributors owe Microsoft money, slandered GNU/Linux as derivative and encumbered, and much more?

It’s a remarkable reversal of opportunity, all the more remarkable that the Novell participants smiled the whole way through what had clearly become a Microsoft event. They went in seeking a huge payout, and emerged with the payout, yes – but also with a commitment to pay it back in royalties on open source software they sell. This is not at all surprising; indeed, I’ve heard others say this is Microsoft’s modus operandi, a ju-jitsu move that takes the weight of an attack and turns it back both on the attacker and the folks around them, usually without them even noticing (at least not to start with). I’d not want to say how closely I’ve observed it before…

Here’s some more links for those interested:

  • Google News has loads of stuff
  • Scoble
  • Gardner – “Microsoft and Novell: Fox marries chicken, both move into henhouse”
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