The Microsoft-SUSE Arrangement
When you think of tech giants, successful companies that have rode the crest of the wave kick-started by Intel's invention of the microprocessor, you always think of Microsoft. Founded by Bill Gates in the 1970s and a major player in the business and home computing booms of the 1980s and 1990s, their founder famously stated that he wanted “a PC in every home."
They easily reached that once-lofty ambition and on the way – with the help of current CEO Steve Ballmer – Microsoft chewed up much of the opposition, spitting out the bits that they didn’t want and retaining control over the vital components that they could use, often valuabe patents. Microsoft Excel is a key example of software that has the famous name all over it, but in fact originated with another company.
You might reasonably point out that Apple is a company that Microsoft hasn’t attempted to destroy, but the fact is that in its current guise Apple isn’t really competition, it’s more of a clone of Microsoft with slightly more desirable hardware and marginally more usable software. And Apple's in-roads on Microsoft in consumer areas haven't been matched on the enterprise side.
The real competitors for Microsoft are those companies who have a service that could impact on something that the highly innovative developers at Redmond are planning on unveiling or upgrading. The Skype acquisition is a key example of this, a big name brand that is the first stop for many Internet users looking for voice or webcam chat. However, Skype isn’t the only big name that Microsoft has been throwing cash at to get its own way.
In July 2011 they renewed an agreement with Attachmate, the owner of the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, a competitor to many of Microsoft’s enterprise-scale operating systems. This is the third deal concerning this technology, harking back to the days when Novell owned SUSE, and it basically allows Microsoft to license sell licenses for the technology via its stores.
Shall I restate that last bit?
Microsoft is paying $100,000 to a competitor to sell licenses to open source services through Microsoft’s own stores!
There is, of course, method in this apparent madness, and it is something that is so jaw-droppingly Microsoft that you might wonder how you hadn’t heard of this happening before.
Basically, Microsoft’s main competitor in the enterprise server sector is Red Hat, a popular Linux server distro, to which SUSE Linux is a poor second-placed rival. By propping up SUSE Linux by the sum of around $500,000 since 2006, Microsoft has been playing a long game, preventing Red Hat from achieving dominance by selling SUSE server licenses from their own stores when customers decide to go for an open source alternative!
It’s both genius and wrong at the same time, and leaves Microsoft as the continuing master of the enterprise server operating system market.