May 13, 2007

This makes me so glad I left.

I'm not a developer. I don't code. It could be argued, convincingly, that I in fact contributed nothing at all to the Ximian production of Linux software during my years working there (although I will state firmly and for the record that I'm not in sales, thanks).

I greeted the news of the Microsoft-Novell patent agreement with trepidation and annoyance. I refrained from blogging about it, because I didn't have enough information about either the agreement itself or the issues being bandied about and didn't consider my opinion should be put forth under a Novell/Ximian username.

I don't work there anymore.

I don't, and didn't, know specifically the business pressures under which Novell and its executives were operating when they negotiated that agreement. I do, however, consider the agreement itself to be a gross betrayal of statements made to the Linux community and those working within it by Novell spokespersons at prior times. The agreement legitimates (in my wholly uninformed opinion) Microsoft's position of Linux and F/OSS patent infringement on its software. Perhaps not in a legally liable manner - that, I'm sure, will be argued vociferously by many people in the years to come - but certainly in a cravenly wink-aside manner. Novell took a payoff, and sold out everyone else in The Prisoner's Dilemma in order to try to achieve some stock bumps for a new management team which had (at the time) ridden to power on promises to achieve some upwards mobility in the stock price.

They haven't really succeeded. Guess what's coming next? Layoffs, probably. I don't know, myself, not working there the past few months. But that's the typical pattern. Hovsepian had some great quote about the 'two levers' that one can use to achieve profitability when he took over. I think one involved raising profits, and the other cutting costs, and then he mumbled on about careful juggling of those two levers and then platitudes about perhaps finding a 'third lever.'

Well, that 'third lever' was revealed to be massive payouts from Microsoft for selling everybody else out. The 'second lever' - layoffs - is traditional. The 'first lever' is a joke, because the BIG SECRET is that it's not at all under his control. It waggles around at the behest of the market, and the market has been telling his company for years that its software sucks.

Why am I suddenly so bitter? Because, as many of us predicted quite accurately at the time - some loudly and publicly, some amongst ourselves into our beers, Novell defecting at the Prisoner's Dilemma has consequences for everyone else. Nasty ones. The pact they were so proud of has, in fact, turned out to be the wedge that seems to have given Ballmer, Smith and their legion of non-productive monopolists the self-confidence to ramp down the DEFCON level on their self-centered game of IP armageddon.

I don't agree with (or even like) many, many people on both sides of this so-called war. I hate extremists of all sorts, to the point of being one myself on the subject. I find extreme polarization to be dangerous, limiting, and frankly, fucking tedious. Most of the 'big names' involved in this little spat seem to fall squarely in that realm. Those that don't, some of whom are some of the smartest people I have read or listened to, are doomed to try to save what they can from the debacle when the buttons are pushed and the lawyers start billing in earnest.

All because of some true scumbags. Not because they're greedy; that's their job. No; because they're so convinced they and their methodology are right, and that the side effects are somebody else's problem, that they're willing to ride the situation down into flames and blame it on the other guys and claim they were just 'doing their jobs for their stockholders' while furtively cashing in options before it gets truly fucked.

Disclaimer: I own some Novell options. Not because I want to, but because Novell, before I planned to leave, suspended all conversion of its options and hasn't unblocked trading yet.

Posted by jbz at May 13, 2007 9:46 PM | TrackBack

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