Terpstra: Don't panic over Novell-Microsoft deal

Life is interesting, isn't it? Who would have guessed at the number of changes in our industry over the past 12 months?

My first reaction to the news of Microsoft's support for Linux was: "Wow! Incredible!" Oh, I guess that was the reaction all round.

More on Microsoft-Novell partnership:
Microsoft, Novell link up for surprise partnership

Opinion: Microsoft, Sun, Oracle can't sidestep Linux,

Then I re-read the Microsoft-Novell announcement and thought about it some more. I wonder if the wording of the announcement is designed to stir up those within the open source movement/community who are branded by the "establishment" as radicals. You know, that is not the first time that has happened!

Taking the high road

My alarm bells are ringing, not because of the announcement but rather over concern that those of us who strive the hardest to protect our liberties might overreact and, in the process, do long-term injury to the cause for liberties in respect to software development.

What is the value of liberty? If we truly value liberty, both our own and that of our fellow man, how ought we to react to this news of an apparently incredible nature?

Instead of judging the book by its cover, we should sit back to weigh the facts, discuss this announcement in rational debate and then formulate a well-thought-out and united response.

Time will tell who is the victor -- or if a victor-loser picture is even relevant.

The good news is this change in Redmond means that Microsoft network admins will now take Linux more seriously. The resounding, echoing message of this agreement says that Microsoft has acknowledged that Linux will impact its future.

A ceasefire in the patent wars?

Even a casual observer of modern business behavior will note that there is overwhelming public expectation that businesses will do all they can, both legally and illegally, to control a market and its competitors. There is broad acceptance of the notion that humanity is involved in some sort of Darwinian duel to the death of all opposition.

Implicit within such a mental framework is a fundamental lack of trust in one's fellow beings with the result that there is a breakdown of civilization and civility.

Is the majority of mankind driven by the belief that might is right? There is an understanding in many parts of the business world that whether software patents are right or wrong is irrelevant when the fact remains that he who owns the majority of them wins, and everyone else loses. Hence, the pressure to expand the intellectual property war chest in many businesses continues.

Patents, in general, are a legal instrument created to give the patent owner total control over the use of a "protected" subject. Patents have created a world in which economic coercion is the norm.

Businesses expend a huge effort to ensure that they harvest every opportunity to cash in on the fortunes of other businesses. That is precisely what protection of intellectual property rights results in. We have created a business world in which companies do not want to share information because of the risk that someone might see the opportunity for patent-based litigation. The result is a fundamental loss of mutuality across all of society.

Not so long ago, a business excelled (gained profit) by offering valued services to its customers. Has the world changed? Well, it is difficult to obtain good service today.

When it comes to liberty, when one person wins a dispute that takes away the liberty of another, we all lose. Let's recognize that when patents proliferate, ultimately, the only option left is to negotiate detente. In the end, the game is over. But we must also recognize that detente will lead to corrective action. We must work so that resulting action will restore liberty where it has been eroded or lost.

Is the Microsoft-Novell deal a detente package? We shall see!

What do you think of the Microsoft-Novell partnership? Let us know in an email!

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