Novell, Red Hat War Gets Uglier8:16 AM EST Tue. May. 01, 2007
The back-and-forth rhetoric between Linux companies Red Hat and Novell has reached a new intensity, with top executives lobbing verbal grenades at each other over Novell's decision last year to enter into a cooperation agreement with Microsoft.
The latest row began when Mark Webbink, Red Hat's corporate counsel, wrote a magazine article comparing the Novell-Microsoft deal to then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler prior to World War II. The remark was an escalation of previous statements from Red Hat executives, criticizing Novell for violating terms of the Linux general public license by signing the agreement with Microsoft.
Late last week, John Dragoon, Novell's chief marketing officer responded angrily on his corporate blog:
I guess Novell is Great Britain and Microsoft is . . . well you get the picture. This from an attorney at Red Hat.
Around that same time, Red Hat's General Counsel suggested in his musings that as a result of the Novell / Microsoft deal, Red Hat would be the 'last commercial Linux distributor standing". How's that for freedom of choice and competition?
As you can see, I've had enough. I've spent an entire career taking the high road but when my company's intentions are challenged without regard to the facts, well, I'm not going to take it anymore.
We will continue to compete on the merits of our solutions. I'm all for a healthy debate on our technologies, services, sales and support. . . and yes even our marketing. The competition keeps us all on our toes and the customer is the real winner.
Greg DeKoenigsberg, Red Hat's community development manager, responded on Dragoon's Novell blog:
You say that you're up for a healthy debate on your technologies, services, sales and support. All that's fair enough, and all very debatable — but are you up for a healthy debate on the nature of the patent deal that you signed with Microsoft, which had the clear and acknowledged (by Ballmer, anyway) purpose of defining "a patent-clean distribution"? Are you ready to acknowledge that this patent agreement is a deliberate violation of the spirit of paragraph 7 of GPLv2? And most importantly, are you up for discussing your plans regarding GPLv3, why Richard Stallman is working the GPLv3 to invalidate the very language that you used in your deal with Microsoft, and how you're going to replace all that GPLv3 code that you'll no longer be able to ship in your Linux distributions?
(Stallman is the founder of the GNU project and has been critical of the Novell-Microsoft deal.)
DeKoenigsberg acknowledged, though, that Webbink's remark "went straight up Godwin's law," a reference to an Internet theory that holds that the longer an ugly debate on the web continues, the greater the likelihood one makes a reference to Hitler.