It could also be very bad news for open source Linux.
Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft and Novell are supposed to work together on interoperability and patents, such as its inter-office suite (Office to OpenOffice).
But instead of embracing standards and software freedom, Microsoft embraced Novell with one arm and waved an accusing finger with the other, warning others to fall in line.
Novell will surely benefit in the short term from mainstream enterprises, and Microsoft will as well. Yes, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer is officially acknowledging that Linux is valid. Or is he?
During the press conference yesterday, Ballmer said: "We don't license our intellectual property to Linux. That's not a possibility."
So, instead of Microsoft creating an open standard or simply adhering to an open standard, Novell will essentially pay some form of royalty to Microsoft for the right to utilize Microsoft's intellectual property.
That implies that Linux is in some way already infringing on Microsoft's intellectual property; and therein lies the rub.
By embracing Novell and, as Ballmer referred to it, "Novell's version of Linux," Microsoft will effectively create a divide in the open source community. Those groups that are part of Novell's development ecosystem will benefit from the Microsoft partnership and protection from patent risk.
Others will not have that protection. Ballmer himself said so.
With an agreement in place with Novell, will Microsoft now turn around and attempt to sue all other commercial users of Samba? If Novell is willing to pay for patent protection, shouldn't everyone else?
Under that reasoning, every other commercial Linux vendor -- Red Hat, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Oracle and even IBM and HP as well as countless storage and appliance vendors that use Samba --are now in Microsoft's line of legal fire.
As mentioned, Microsoft and Novell are also supposed to work together on office suite interoperability. Yet, historically speaking, the best way to achieve interoperability is with open standards. Think about the internet itself, http, DNS, IPv4, Ethernet and countless other technologies that are ubiquitous and critical to the foundation of the modern internet are all open standards.
On on hand, the Novell/Microsoft partnership could be seen as Microsoft saying "can't we all just get along."
On the other hand, Microsoft's deal with Novell could be considered a masterful stroke by Microsoft to divide and perhaps ultimately prevail over Linux.
Those money hugging fat cats at Microsoft.