Wal-Mart cites legal fears in Novell move

Some members of the IT community scoff at Microsoft's legal claims that Linux infringes on a number of its existing patents, an assertion Redmond has reiterated since partnering with Novell to deliver a "lawsuit-resistant" version of Linux. Wal-Mart CTO Nancy Stewart is apparently a believer, however.

It seems that Wal-Mart's top techie was reluctant to move forward with the company's forthcoming massive Web build-out using its previous Linux flavor of choice: Red Hat Linux, according to CNET's Martin LaMonica. The end of his report reads:

"Questions over intellectual property are a 'huge problem,' Stewart said. The company now uses Linux in the data center of its current Web presence but had some trepidation with the idea of expanding it a much larger operation."

"'To think about using it pervasively, we were very concerned about it,' she said. The larger Web operation would have 'significantly higher legal exposure.'"

What remains unclear is whether there really is a plausible grounds for a threat that could result in "higher legal exposure" for Wal-Mart. Nevertheless, that threat has seemingly reduced the retail behemoth to trembling in its boots and adopting Novell Suse Linux via Microvell.

Notably, plenty of other Linux users out there have not demonstrated similar trepidation and have accused Redmond of sowing seeds of FUD to convert companies to Novell Linux, then squeezing what amounts to "protection money" out of them.

No matter the reason Wal-Mart's CTO chose to cite fear of legal exposure as one of the rationales to use Novell for its big project, her statements undoubtedly came as music to Microsoft's ears.