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Is Novell Selling FUD or Linux?

No Rat Poison Here

  • September 8, 2009
  • By Paul Rubens
Paul Rubens

Companies with inferior products are often tempted to create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. A bit of FUD is an effective leveler, allowing these companies to compete on more equal terms with the competition. FUD is A Bad Thing because it distorts the market so that buyers don't always buy the optimum solution, and sellers make sales their products don't warrant.

Last week, Novell announced its third-quarter results, revealing a decline in net revenue from $245 million in Q3 last year to $216 million in the same period this year. But within that, revenue from Linux Platform Products was up 22 percent to $38 million.

But beware. FUD is in operation here. Back in November 2006 Microsoft and Novell entered an agreement under the terms of which Microsoft provided a covenant to Novell's Linux customers that it would not sue them if it turned out that Linux infringed certain unspecified Microsoft patents, as the Redmond company had suddenly started claiming in 2004. Novell also agreed to provide a similar covenant to Microsoft customers.

As Novell puts it, "By securing a commitment from Microsoft to support the use of Linux and open source software, we have allayed any potential concerns for our customers and removed a barrier to enterprisewide Linux adoption." The fact that Novell stated at the time "there was no threatened litigation" from Microsoft leads one to the conclusion that this was all FUD-making.

It's a bit like a food company saying "our products contain no rat poison," thus implying that competitors products might.

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