Two months ago, the brazilian Linux community gathered around BR-Linux
invited Novell to answer 10 questions sent and selected by the users, about the company's stance on Linux, open source, licenses, document formats and other subjects. [esta é a versão completa e em inglês das Respostas da Novell aos leitores do BR-Linux, conforme previamente anunciado.
Novell accepted the invitation, and agreed to send the questions unchanged (except for the translation to English, provided by them) to the company's headquarters in the US. The answers came back, credited to Novell (no individual authorship), and were translated back to portuguese, for discussion among brazilian readers.
One of the questions, sent by the reader semente
, wasn't answered at all, other answers look evasive, some of them repeat known company policy without adding much more meat to it (the deal was about interoperability, you know), but most of them may reveal more than a glimpse of unfiltered opinion: Novell believes there should be one open standard and that standard is ODF, We do not believe that Linux infringes on any Microsoft patents, We welcome GPLv3, and so forth.
BR-Linux.org thanks Novell and the individual authors of the questions and answers.
Now, for the benefit of those who wanted to see the original text, and also for the occasional international reader that may find it, the full text is made available. Enjoy.
Which are Novell adoption plans regarding GPLv3? (Knux) Would Novell adopt the GPLv3 licensing in any of its software? What are the reasons? (semente)
Novell welcomes the completion of GPLv3. We fully expect to include GPLv3 technologies in our future SUSE Linux Enterprise distributions. Our main focus in on getting the best technology into the hands of customers. We expect open source projects to be licensed under a combination of licenses, as they are today. GPLv3 will be one of those licenses. So as open source technologies get licensed under GPLv3, and introduced into SUSE Linux Enterprise, we will be meeting the requirements of that license.
Knowing the ODF standard for being in contact with the community and knowing the OOXML developed by its partner, Microsoft, which is the best choice in Novell's opinion? Why? (MuriloR)
ODF was originally created and implemented by the OpenOffice.org office suite and is actively promoted by Novell, IBM and Sun Microsystems. Novell believes there should be one open standard and that standard is ODF. ODF is Novell's default file format and the file format that we recommend to all Novell customers.
That being stated, we are pragmatists and realize that not all organizations will use ODF immediately. In order to provide seamless interoperability between office productivity suites for our customers, we are working with Microsoft to develop translators that will allow OpenOffice.org users and Microsoft Office users to share documents.
Is Mono part of the intellectual property alleged by Microsoft as a potential cause of breach of their patents? (nemesis)
As you are aware, Microsoft has never disclosed what IP they believe the Linux and open source community has infringed upon. Novell has consistently maintained that there are no patent infringements on Microsoft code as part of any software development that we undertake.
The agreement we reached with Microsoft around patents was simply to remove the issue from the discussion, so that customers didn't have to think about it. Novell made a covenant not to sue Microsoft customers and Microsoft made a covenant not to sue Novell customers. That covenant would extend to Novell customers using Mono.
Do the developers of Mono work as mere programmers that receive specifications from Microsoft and deploy them, or do they actively participate in the ECMA standardization process? Is there any collaboration between Microsoft developers and Mono members? Is there any rivalry between them? (Marcelo Rocha)
While Mono is a Novell sponsored project, it includes multiple contributions from many developers, both inside and outside of Novell. It's possible some are involved in the ECMA process, but its not a focus of the project. Mono works off of publicly available Microsoft information to develop its software. Microsoft has not publicly endorsed Mono, nor does it contribute to Mono.
Just this week, it was announced that Novell and Microsoft will cooperate on bringing Microsoft's Silverlight technology for rich internet applications to Linux. Called the Moonlight project, this will be based on work started at Mono, and will run across any Linux distribution that Mono supports (all the major distributions). So while this isn't a Microsoft endorsement of Mono, it's a recognition that Mono can serve as a platform for helping make specific Microsoft's applications run on Linux.
I would like to know if Novell agrees with its partner's statements that Linux infringes Microsoft patents. If so, which? If not, from exactly what does Novell protect their customers [when accepting the terms related to patents] with the signed agreement? (Knux)
Novell has been very consistent on this issue and we have publicly stated that we do not believe that Linux infringes on any Microsoft patents. That being said, our agreement with Microsoft takes the patent issue off the table for customers. We have simply made the patent issue a non-event as part of a customer buying decision. We believe that the most important part of this is about making interoperability real for the customers. It is about making the life of IT managers easier by reducing the cost and complexity of managing their environment. Fulfilling the customer interoperability need is what drives our activities and is the spirit with which our engineering teams are working together.
Did Microsoft contribute or intends to contribute with code for any Open Source software distributed by Novell? If so, have Novell verified if the contribution doesn't use any patent owned by Microsoft? (Elias G. Amaral)
In all the development work that we do, we are extemely careful to no infringe on the intellectual property held by others. If we are contributing to an open source project, we will following the licensing requirements that govern that project. So if the license prohibits the inclusion of patented code, we will not contribute patented code, whether its ours or somebody else's that we might license. This fear of Novell somehow putting Microsoft technology into Linux is completely unfounded.
Is Microsoft a Novell stockholder? If so, what is their percentage? (Leidson Campos)
Which efforts Novell has been doing to solve or minimize the problem between Linux and the multimedia support (video and sound codecs and plugins)? Is there any prevision concerning the problem solution? (vini_bill)
Novell has been very active in trying to address the multimedia challenges that face Linux on the desktop. We've worked with Real, with Microsoft, and others to seek solutions. We have made good progess, but this continues to be an area where more progress must be made. The Moonlight project mentioned above, which is designed to promote rich internet applications, including audio and video, is one example of recent progress. Under this agreement, Microsoft will make the codecs need to run Silverlight on Linux available for all Linux users, and the Mono installer will make it seamless for the end user to get those codes from Microsoft as part of the installation process. Still, there is work to be done in this area.
What will be Microsoft / Novell position with the release of GPLv3? Will code GPLv3 be included in the SUSE Linux Enterprise series? Will Microsoft distribute SLES coupons even if it has codes under GPLv3 or just GPLv2? (Xis) Will OpenSUSE be influenced by the constraints of the new GPLv3? And what will happen to the community in this case? (Samuelbh)
We stated our position here: http://www.novell.com/prblogs/?p=365 We welcome GPLv3. Microsoft has said it the certificates is distributes to customers for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server won't entitle those customers to maintenance and upgrades from Novell on any GPLv3 technology. However, Novell has stated that, even thought the certificates don't automatically provide that right, we will, in fact, give customers maintenance and upgrades on the latest version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, including it's GPLv3 licensed components. So the bottom line is that customers won't be negatively impacted by this. There should be no impact to the community from this.
It is known that the Novell-Microsoft agreement has caused an enormous wave of unpopularity against Novell, no matter how much the company tries to tranquilize their users. If it is demonstrated that this unpopularity is negatively affecting the growth of the distribution, do you intend to cancel the agreement? (Patola)
Is is important to keep in mind there are many different groups that look at the Novell-Microsoft agreement in different ways. There is no doubt that there is a part of the open source community that is vocally opposed to the agreement. However, there are others in the community who see it as promoting Linux adoption. Microsoft is a reality in the market, and if we want Linux to succeed, it has to work alongside Microsoft. Not surprisingly, customers have been one group that has been very supportive of the agreement. We signed several large customers as Linux customers thanks to the agreement, including Wal-Mart, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, AIG, HSBC, and more. In addition, looking at Novell's most recent financial statistics, our Linux revenue grew 77% over the same quarter the previous year. So the agreement has helped, not hindered, the growth of SUSE Linux Enterprise.
We truly believe bridging the gap between Linux and the Windows world will be good for Linux growth, which will be good for the community at large. Obviously, we think the agreement is good for Novell's business, as well. Linux is poised for growth in data centers and beyond. By offering customers a distribution that easily integrates into their existing environments including Windows we think we can accelerate that growth.