Microsoft has always had excellent timing. They know when to announce a product; they know when to begin grass-roots movements to build hype for a product; they know when to create an alliance; they know when to break an alliance. They have missed some marks, that's true. They almost missed the internet boat, but were able to quickly recover with the licensing of Spyglass, Inc's browser. Microsoft's best timing, though, has always been when and where to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
And that brings us to Novell.
Now, less than a month before the release of corporate Vista, Microsoft has created a climate that will chill that negotiation tactic. We saw Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer begin this chilling effect this last week, when he said, "If a customer says, 'Look, do we have liability for the use of your patented work?' Essentially, If you're using non-Suse Linux, then I'd say the answer is yes."
"Oh," the sales rep can say during licensing negotiations, "are you planning on installing Suse Linux?" Then they can go on about how dangerous it is to deploy GNU/Linux, unless it is Suse Linux. "And do you know how expensive that is?" they can ask.
Until now, there has been little fear about installing GNU/Linux, SCO lawsuits notwithstanding. Red Hat Linux is a particular favorite, but there are many installations of GNU/Linux without any commercial support. System administrators simply download the latest version of their favorite distribution and install. Now, businesses will be more likely to require installation of GNU/Linux with "indemnification," such as Red Hat Linux of Suse Linux, increasing substantially the price of initial implementation and adding to recurring costs. This decreases the GNU/Linux value compared to Microsoft products.
Visits from the Business Software Alliance (BSA) never worried those with GNU/Linux. With the threat of Microsoft retaliating with patents, very large corporations -- those most likely to turn to GNU/Linux, or at least use it in license negotiations with Microsoft -- are less likely to consider GNU/Linux at all, at least until this is all sorted out. By that time, they will have upgraded to Vista, allowing Microsoft to continue domination through this upgrade cycle.
In the end, this is all about Vista. This is all about a forced-march upgrade cycle. This is all about pulling the prop from under corporate threats of a mass GNU/Linux migration. This is all about removing choice.
It's all about marketing the idea that GNU/Linux is not safe, and you should probably stick with Vista.