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Novell: in it for the interop, not the money

Stats show unanimous support for MS deal

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A jointly sponsored Microsoft and Novell survey purporting strong customer support for the companies’ controversial alliance looks like back firing on Novell.

While the poll of 201 IT executives with “significant” purchasing power found near unanimous support for interoperability between Linux and Windows, relatively few said they’d actually pick Novell’s SuSE Linux Server (SLES) as a result of the deal.

Sixty seven per cent said they are “more likely” to now consider SLES. Ninety five per cent, though, said collaboration between Microsoft and Novell will increase interoperability of IT systems while 97 per cent want platform providers to improve interoperability between their systems.

Such findings are unlikely to help Novell close the sales and market-share gap on Red Hat - one of the deal’s objectives with Microsoft acting as a SLES reseller. The poll’s findings confirm statements from Novell’s management last week indicating company revenue for 2007 is unlikely to be affected by contributions from Microsoft. Revenue is actually expected to come in lower than expected revenue for 2006.

If anything, the companies’ alliance is likely to increase demands on Red Hat from customers for price discounts on the threat of switching. A recent Pacific Crest poll of 118 IT purchasers found 64 per cent consider a price discount “very important” to continuing to do business with Red Hat. A majority want between a quarter and a half off.

Publication of the unanimous findings of the Microsoft/Novell poll is the companies’ latest attempt to shore up a crumbling and questionable alliance.

Novell has been heavily criticized for getting into bed with Microsoft, while the companies have themselves publicly disagreed over whether Linux violates Windows patents – the patent protection covenant is one of the deal’s central themes.

Novell chief executive Ron Hovsepian said Linux does not infringe patents while Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has claimed that Linux does infringe on Microsoft’s patents. The agreement to disagree raises significant questions over whether a problem exists and what type of protection Novell customers get from Microsoft.

The poll as a whole is also unlikely to dissuade those sceptical of Novell’s decision to get into bed with its former enemy. Novell has drawn on the research services of market research company Penn, Schoen & Berland, who lists Microsoft as a customer of eight years’ standing. Novell is not a customer, according to PSB’s web site.reg;

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