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Perens: 'Novell is the new SCO'

But who gets to play Darl?

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Often cast as the peacemaker in free software disputes, Bruce Perens is on the warpath.

When we caught up with him, he wasn't in a mood to be charitable to Novell. On Friday the Utah company, which markets the SuSE Linux distribution, revealed that it was entering into a partnership with Microsoft. Redmond would pay Novell an undisclosed sum in return for Novell recognizing Microsoft's intellectual property claims. Novell received a "Covenant" promising that it wouldn't be sued by Microsoft.

"It's a case of 'Damn the people who write the software'", he told us. "Novell is in a desperate position - it has a smaller share of the market than Debian," he told us.

Actually, Novell did eke out a small profit in the most recent quarter: $11m on sales of $241m. But its been a rough year, with the company losing its CEO and Chairman in June. Revenues from Novell's long term cash cow, Netware, declined 20 per cent year on year, and Linux revenue is negligable by comparison: just $11m.

Was the deal even legitimate, we wondered?

"Novell is violating the GPL," he tells us. "It's up to the Free Software Foundation, which owns the copyright, to pursue this. But the FSF owns the C library and the compiler outright. There isn't much Novell can do without either."

Perens also urged users to be cautious.

"We should note that the promise is revocable. Microsoft can withdraw it - change or discontinue it - at any time. You can't depend on any promises made here."

The timing also smelt a bit fishy, he thought.

"Coming just as the SCO case is winding down, the timing is interesting. Novell is the new SCO."

Ouch. ®

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