Independent software company Attachmate will purchase Novell for $2.2 billion the companies announced today. CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of companies lead by Microsoft, put up $450 million of the $2.2 billion in exchange for 882 patents from Novell, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley discovered. Microsoft isn't talking about what patents it's purchasing from Novell.

TechFlash suggests Microsoft is keeping Novell's intellectual property out of the hands of rivals like Red Hat and VMware.

IDC analyst Matt Eastwood says he doesn't know what Microsoft's consortium purchased, but is hazarding a guess that Novell's virtualization technology PlateSpin is the target. However, it seems just as likely that Attachmate, best known for its terminal emulation software, is primarily interested in the virtualization technology as well.

Attachmate announced that it would run Novell and SUSE as two separate entities, indicating that Microsoft isn't buying SUSE outright. However, the lack of information on Microsoft's part is making some observers uneasy. ZDNet's Dana Blankenhorn writes:

What does this mean for Linux? Nothing changes. Microsoft still claims to control it. The details remain hidden from view. Which means Microsoft still has something to hide from the open source community, and something to hold over its head.

Other than SUSE and PlateSpin, Novell's offerings include its e-mail and groupware system GroupWise, various access control systems, a cross-platform .NET framework called Mono, and a new social media platform called Pulse. According to Mono founder Miguel de Icaza, the project will continue as-is under Attachmate.

Foley also notes that Novell was appealing its suit against Microsoft involving WordPerfect, and speculates that this purchase will end that appeal.

"From an enterprise social computing stand point and the needs we see in our customer base, I'm disappointed to see Novell get taken out," says Sameer Patel of Constellation Research. "Novell has a meaningful, yet disjointed, portfolio of products that it was weaving together with Vibe."

"Identity, Groupware and Unified Communications gave Novell a very promising vantage point from where social computing solutions can emerge," Patel says. "The hard part of social computing really is not text - its folding in voice, dynamic profiles, virtual teaming, video and the like to stitch a connected enterprise fabric for customers. And Novell had the right pieces." Patel hopes Attachmate will recognize and capitalize on this.