Microsoft and Novell announce groundbreaking Linux deal

Redmond promises not to pursue individual open source developers for patent infringement

Novell and Microsoft chief executives Ron Hovsepian and Steve Ballmer today announced a wide-ranging interoperability deal that will allow the companies' Linux and Windows platforms to work together.

The deal between Microsoft, who until now has been fiercely opposed to Open Source, and Novell, which embarked on the Linux route after flagging sales of its proprietary software products, stunned industry observers.

Apart from Microsoft's ideological opposition to Linux, the two companies have been bitter enemies for the past decade. Novell filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft and received US$536 million two years ago to settle it part of its claims. The lawsuit won't be affected by the current deal, says Novell.

Large database vendor Oracle and its Linux partner, Red Hat, are the targets for the Novell/Microsoft deal, according to analysts.

Much of the deal focused on intellectual property arrangements. Microsoft has agreed to support Novell's SuSE-based Linux distribution, and also to not pursue any patent claims for the technology used for this. Furthermore, Microsoft says it won't go after individual open source developers for patent infringement.

The two companies are also committed to develop methods of running both Linux and Windows on the same computer. For companies that desire both Windows and Linux solutions, Microsoft will recommend Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise. Support coupons will also be distributed by Microsoft for Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise for maintenance and support.

Microsoft New Zealand director of innovation says today's announcement comes after six months' of discussions between Redmond and Novell. The major point, Roberts says, is the building of an intellectual property bridge betwee the two companies. Interoperability and customer confidence are the key principles he says.

Nothing will change with regard to Microsoft competing with Novell, however, Roberts says, who calls the arrangement that will be in force until 2012 at least "co-opetition".

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