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Microsoft versus Novell: the best reason to go open source

If you needed another argument in favor of open source, here it is. The money you spent on license fees for proprietary software has funded years of who-cares lawsuits between software

vendors. A case in point is a post from Groklaw yesterday regarding some documents that Microsoft subpoenaed last month. Groklaw does a great job explaining why Microsoft wants these documents, but the stick-in-your-craw part was that they pertain to a 2004 antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft by Novell.

To paraphrase from Groklaw the central issue is that Microsoft thinks these papers could prove that Novell sold all of its antitrust claims to Caldera, including two outstanding claims against Microsoft regarding Wordperfect. If Microsoft can prove that, Microsoft would argue that the outstanding claims are kaput, covered by a settlement agreement with Caldera in 2000.

You may believe that Microsoft unfairly caused the death of Wordperfect. Or you might remember that there were a lot of years that Novell mismanaged its top selling software packages by treating its customers and its development process with contempt. Nevertheless, flash forward to October 2008 and you'll find many a human being who has never heard of Wordperfect but just downloaded for free something called OpenOffice.org. And here's another reality check. Microsoft and Novell have long since turned their ancient animosity into a partnership

The anti-Microsoft crowd scores a point. Not one iota of justice could possibly be served by lingering lawsuits over a long-dead DOS word processor. As Groklaw says,

"Not a dull moment in the software vendors' cesspool playing out in Utah. Sometimes when I think about all the messes that would never have happened if there were no Microsoft, it's mind-boggling, and rather sad."

Microsoft certainly isn't the only litigation-happy algae in this cesspool, but it is the biggest one. Software vendors and their customers are better served when vendors concentrate on the Next Big Thing rather than protecting their aging (or even dead) technological turf. Let's hope that open source software licensing makes that happen.

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