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Novell boss in semi-apology over Microsoft pact

Lost in the moment

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OSBC It was a short presentation that focused dryly on "opportunities" for open source in something he called the "service-driven data center."

But when he turned to the need for Linux to inter-operate with Windows in this service-driven data center, Novell's chief executive Ron Hovsepian delivered an apology - of sorts - for his company's controversial marriage to Microsoft in 2006.

Speaking at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), Hovsepian said he could have done a "better job" of communicating about the deal and suggested he got caught up in thinking about customers, instead of the perception and possible fallout from dealing with Microsoft.

Hovsepian insisted he remained fully committed to taking business away from Windows and .NET and putting it on open source and Java.

In exchange for an agreement on interoperability engineering between Windows and SuSE Linux in 2006, Novell also accepted an indemnification agreement.

While Novell denied it, the agreement was seen as an acceptance by Novell of Microsoft's claims - so far unproved and periodically repeated - that Linux and open source infringe on its patents.

Additionally, under the deal, Microsoft paid Novell $240m to distribute 350,000 SuSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription coupons.

Unsurprisingly, Novell was immediately blasted by members of the open-source and Linux communities. Novell's willingness to swallow Microsoft's indemnification clause was recently called into question again, when Red Hat signed its own interoperability deal on Windows, minus Microsoft's patent protection clause - as far as we know, at least.

"I know the deal we did with Microsoft caused a lot of noise and flack in the market," Hovsepian told OSBC on Tuesday. "And I wish I'd done a better job of communicating that. But the thing that caught in my head was the customer.

"Ninety eight per cent of customers said they would have Windows in their environment. My view was embrace it. I still want to put everything on JEE [Java Enterprise Edition] and a full open-source stack, but at the end of the day we have to listen to the customer." ®

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