As Novell president Ron Hovsepian and other executives were extolling the virtues of Novell's agreement with Microsoft at the BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City, open source advocate Bruce Perens was across the street explaining how the deal is designed to poison the open source ecosystem.
Perens said he set up the press conference, recorded versions of which are available on the web, in an effort to rain on Novell's parade.
The Microsoft deal, which covers patents and interoperability, is one of the central themes of this year's BrainShare. Hovsepian outlined the scope of the two companies' November agreement, and Novell's new commitment to interoperability between Microsoft and Novell, to approximately 5,000 attendees. Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, also took to the stage.
Following the deal, Microsoft has repeatedly embarrassed Novell by asserting that the arrangement will help Microsoft crush open source competition. Last month, for instance, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer told analysts: "I would not anticipate that we make a huge additional revenue stream from our Novell deal, but I do think it clearly establishes that open source is not free."
Perens took much the same line, arguing that Novell's entry into the deal was an act of bad faith that could end up making Novell practically a Microsoft subsidiary. In fact, the deal could be a Novell "exit strategy", Perens suggested.
"What Novell has done is 'Mutiny on the Bounty,'" Perens said, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune.
He said he had no problem with the technical interoperability aspect of the deal, but said the patent issues addressed in the agreement could allow Microsoft to use its patent portfolio to keep the open source world in line - much the same argument made by Ballmer.
Open source's best hope is in its size and diversity, which could help ward off any direct threats from Microsoft, Perens said. The new version of the GNU General Public License, the most widely used open source licence, is also designed to prevent such deals from happening in the future.
At the conference, Hovsepian maintained the company line that the deal is primarily about interoperability.
"The deal was done for one reason - that was for the customers. It was about driving customers to interoperability," he said.
Deni Connor of Network World contributed to this report.
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