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Friday, 03 April 2009 06:51

If Microsoft bought Novell, it wouldn't come as a surprise

By
The idea that Microsoft would buy Novell isn't exactly that far-fetched. Events on April 1 have proved this.

A spoof run by iTWire, written by Linux expert David M. Williams, and headlined "Linux beware: Microsoft acquires Novell, become UNIX copyright owner", was sufficient to cause a few people to call Novell in the US and inquire if there was some truth to the story.

Novell PR chief Ian Bruce phoned iTWire and asked that the story be retracted. iTWire editor Stan Beer had to add a paragraph to the story to state emphatically that it was an April Fool's joke.

(We don't generally submit to demands that resemble those in North Korea, not unless we are really at fault.)

An April 1 yarn works when it is good enough to be believed. We generally take care to add something at some point that provides a hint that it is fiction, not fact.

Williams was careful to do this. His story quoted someone bearing the designation "Microsoft’s Vice President of Stealth Acquisitions" and having the name Russell Sprout.

If that wasn't enough, he added this: "Sprout has already stated Novell’s recently released SUSE Linux 11 will be relaunched as Microsoft Linux Vista by the middle of this month."

That should have made it apparent to anyone with the IQ of the common cockroach that it was a spoof. The date on the story was clear: April 1. What more does one want?
 
I wrote to Bruce, asking him why Novell was angered by the story and pointing out that no entity, government or private, had ever taken offence at any of our April 1 spoofs.

He replied: "I wasn't angry. Unfortunately, your story was so well done as a spoof it got picked up in the US and we actually had a couple of calls. Amazing, I know. The headline did it, I think. Sorry for the alarm."

That people took such a story seriously tells us more about Novell, Microsoft and the public impression that the infamous patent contract has created, than any of the articles that have been written analysing, criticising or praising the deal.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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