Voices circulated for months and there were offers but yersterday official news arrived: Novell signed an agreement to be acquired by Attachmate Corporation for a value of about 2,2 billions USD. At the same time though there was the announcement of the sale of part of Novell intellectual properties to the CPTN Holdings LLC consortium, which is organized by Microsoft. This move rises some worry especially among Linux supporters because Novell had become one of the most important companies in this field after the acquisition of SuSE while Microsoft in the past financed SCO, which for years had fought the biggest Linux companies in american courts of law. The only SCO result though was to arrive on the verge of bankrupt.
At the moment Microsoft hasn’t revealed what it actually bought but in official documents ritually sent to the competent authorities for antitrust clearance and whatever is needed to approve all the deal it’s indicated that Bill Gates company bought 882 Novell patents for 450 millions USD paid in cash.
Concerning Attachmate Corporation it’s a company probably unknown to most people. This software house is active in business services such as terminal emulation, legacy applications modernization and enterprise fraud management. It hasn’t a public high profile, in fact it seems that after the deal with Novell was officialized its web site went KO due to the excess of visits.
What will be the consequences of Novell sale? Inevitably they’ll have to be evaluated with precision in long term. Attachmate intention is to split the operations in two units: Novell and SuSE, with on one side Novell solutions such as security and cloud computing and on the other side Linux solutions. That way the activities connected to SuSE Linux could keep on being developed in a situation of greater company stability.
The consequences of the sale of patents to Microsoft are more vague. Those patents could be about Unix, anyway we’ll have to see how the Redmond-based company wants to use them. Some years ago Microsoft claimed it owns part of the intellectual properties connected to the Linux kernel but after a commercial deal signed with – guess who? Yes – Novell it didn’t go on with those claims.
Surely Microsoft doesn’t spend almost half a billion USD for nothing. It’s been years since especially Steve Ballmer called Linux communist and a cancer, instead lately Microsoft has even become active in open source. Considering Linux strong position in the server field it’s possible that now Bill Gates company wants to try a different approach and found the right occasion with the acquisition of Novell patents to try to get a slice of that pie. There’s fear that Microsoft might try to do it through legal ways SCO style regardless of the bad publicity that would result and the attention of the antitrust authorities of half the world it would get.
During the last years even Steve Ballmer prefers to show a friendly face but I learned to always expect the worst from Microsoft and I was never disappointed so I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future I read about more or less hidden operations conducted by a company that has already been busted by various antitrust authorities.