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December 12, 2006

Microsoft and Novell tout customer approval

Microsoft Corp and Novell Inc have countered criticism of their recent interoperability and patent peace deal by releasing the details of a survey that indicates that 95% of customers approve of their collaboration.

By CBR Staff Writer

According to the survey, carried out by market research firm Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates with 201 IT executives and decision makers, 95% of all respondents approve of the deal, which also has a 100% approval rate among the 52 joint Windows/SUSE customers surveyed.

Waltham, Massachusetts-based Novell got together with Microsoft in November to work together on Linux and Windows interoperability as well as promising not to sue each other’s customers for patent infringement.

These high numbers don’t surprise me because they match the very positive reception that we’ve gotten from customers, said Susan Heystee, vice president of global strategic alliances at Novell, who was recently appointed to oversee the deal.

It is worth noting, however, that only 67% of all respondents were already aware of the agreement between Microsoft and Novell. The remaining 33% based their opinion of the deal on the following provided statement:

On November 2nd, Microsoft and Novell announced a set of broad business and technical collaboration agreements to build, market, and support a series of new solutions to improve interoperability for customers and make Novell and Microsoft products work better together. The two companies also announced an agreement to provide each other’s customers with patent coverage for their respective products.

While there views on the deal cannot be entirely discounted, it appears that one third of the respondents gave their opinion based solely on an understanding of the deal delivered to them by Microsoft and Novell.

Three quarters of the Red Hat customers asked were already aware of the deal, and there are indications that some are considering a switch to Novell. While only 89% of the 63 Red Hat customers surveyed approved of the deal, 79% of them also said that the deal meant they were more likely to consider deploying SUSE Linux Enterprise.

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Overall, 67% of respondents said they were more likely to consider deploying SUSE as a result of the agreement, while 91% said they thought the deal would benefit customers of both companies, and 88% said they thought it would increase interoperability between Linux and Windows.

The deal has been sharply criticized from some sections of the open source community as divisive as it prompted Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer to make unsubstantiated claims that Linux contains Microsoft intellectual property.

The Samba development team criticized the deal as divisive because it attempts to split the open source movement between Novell users and non-Novell users, as well as commercial and non-commercial developers.

The Software Freedom Law Center, meanwhile, criticized Microsoft’s commitment not to sue promise not to assert its patents against individual open source developers as worse than useless, while open source advocate, Bruce Perens, has pointed out that the deal could see Novell isolated in its support of older software.

None of these issues appear to have been addressed by the survey questions.

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