Thursday's deal between Microsoft and Novell seemed eerily similar to one struck between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Inc. in 2004 that ended the Java dispute between the two companies and promised better interoperability. That deal also was announced with little notice. However, few concrete effects of that deal have been seen in the industry since it was struck.
The deal between Microsoft and Novell will certainly be a blow for Red Hat Inc., the second in as many weeks. Last week, Oracle Corp. said it would begin selling technical support for Red Hat Linux, a plan that both validates Red Hat Linux while undermining Red Hat's own support and maintenance business. Red Hat is the leading supplier of Linux and the biggest rival for Novell's Suse Linux distribution.
Novell is one in a line of companies that has been forced to change its core business because of Microsoft, and so makes a strange partner for the Redmond, Washington, vendor.
Novell built its business on the back of its Netware network OS, but the appearance of Windows NT on the scene as a viable alternative was a primary reason for Netware's ultimate demise. In recent years, Novell has rebuilt itself into an open-source software company through purchases of companies such as Suse Linux and Ximian.
The deal also will not only pit Microsoft and Novell against Oracle and Red Hat, but also IBM Corp., which was an early supporter of Linux, particularly Red Hat's distribution.
(Robert McMillan in San Francisco contributed to this report.)