Proprietary Vs Open Source..is an interesting debate for any tech journo, so when Microsoft closed a pact with Novell last year, how could I resist penning my thoughts on this contentious issue....The story was published in the Dataquest Magazine & on CIOL.com and got quite many comments from people from all over the world....That's best compliment for any journalist....(http://www.ciol.com/content/search/showarticle1.asp?artid=91191)
Raymond Noorda must certainly be turning in his grave. It has been barely a month since he left for the pearly abode and already his legacy has been undone. For over a decade, Noorda fought a relentless battle against the company at Redmond. Noorda was a former CEO of Novell and to him, William Henry Gates III was an unscrupulous usurper who needed to be stopped at all costs. Novell and Microsoft were bitter enemies, nothing less and could be more.
Thus, Microsoft came out with LAN-Man to beat Novell’s Netware and Novell went on a buying spree, for instance WordPerfect, to take on the might of Microsoft on the desktop space. Sadly, Novell wasn’t David and burnt itself hollow in its battle with the Goliath. In 1993, Noorda parted ways with Novell to establish the Canopy Group that invested in a whole lot of companies working in the open source space. Novell dragged on.
A decade or so later, Novell did a course correction and in 2003, jumped on the open source bandwagon with the acquisition of SUSE (a few months before acquiring SUSE, Novell had acquired an open source application developer company, Ximian). Despite the shift, Novell could never regain its past glory. It was a distant second to another open source major, Red Hat. That was the state a few days back till Novell decided to sellout.
Since, the eighties, Microsoft has been at loggerheads with some or the all the IT companies. It is renowned for the subversive tactics that it employs to nullify opposition. “Embrace, Extend, Exterminate” is supposedly the corporate philosophy that it lives by. In its three decade of existence, innumerable companies have either been gobbled up or simply run out of existence. Gates (and now Steve Ballmer, the CEO) do not look kindly at competition.
The documents supposedly go on to acknowledge that certain parts of Linux are superior to the versions of Windows available at the time, and outlined a strategy of "de-commoditize[ing] protocols & applications"; or basing networks and documents around proprietary standards, thus they can only interoperate with machines that work on Microsoft OS. That was at the turn of the millennium.
Noorda in his heydays had popularized the term coopetition, i.e., cooperative competition. This philosophy is the supposed basis on which the Microsoft-Novell pact is based upon. The pact has been touted as a symbiotic breakthrough. Yet, on closer analysis, there seems to be fairly little that Microsoft seems to be getting out of the deal. But then, remember what your kindergarten teacher repeatedly asked you to rote, ‘appearances can be deceptive.’
How does Microsoft gain from the whole deal? Is a question that is rankling many minds. Going by Microsoft’s track record, it should not be too hard to extrapolate. The open source movement was turning out to be quite a formidable challenge for Microsoft (the likes of Google, Amazon and other Wall Street firms were using open source systems), there was still some spadework to be done.
Sleeping with the enemy
The late Noorda had supposedly thwarted two acquisition attempts by Microsoft, after a failed merger attempt. If Gary Rivlin’s "The Plot to Get Bill Gates," is to be believed, Noorda liked to refer to Gates as “Pearly" and Ballmer as "The Embalmer." According to Noorda, Pearly promised the heavens, meanwhile Emballmer dug your grave.