Patent Regime a Key

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-04-02 Print this article Print

Part"> A key part of the agreement, Ballmer said, was the establishment of what he called a "patent regime"—a framework that establishes policies for the companies regarding one anothers intellectual property rights. It took a year, he said, "because this is complicated stuff." In addition, McNealy said Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect, and Greg Papadopoulos, Suns chief technology officer, have been meeting "for several months now" to work out ways for the two companies frameworks to better interoperate. The two will continue to meet, he said.
Under a technical collaboration agreement, the companies will share access to each others server-based technology for use in building new server software products that will work better together, the companies said. The cooperation initially will center on Windows Server and Windows Client but eventually will include other technology, such as e-mail and database software.
Sun also has agreed to license the Windows desktop operating system communications protocols under Microsofts Communications Protocol Program, which came as part of Microsofts consent decree and final judgment with the U.S. Department of Justice and 18 state attorneys general. Adding to the collaboration, the two companies announced that they will work together to improve the interaction between the Java and .Net platforms and to seek cross-license agreements. The companies also announced Windows certification for Suns Xeon servers. "Were going to continue to compete," Ballmer said. "The customers dont want us to stop competing," McNealy said. McNealy also cryptically added: "Theres a potential this is just phase one." But he also said there were no plans to merge core Sun and Microsoft products. "It draws more developers to the two platforms," McNealy said of the deal. Both company leaders and analysts agree that customers gain the most from the deal. "Well, Sun gets the cash in the settlement, but the real winner is the customer," said Thomas Murphy, an analyst with META Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn. "I have taken many calls over the past year from people who were facing a lot of issues with Microsoft not being able to ship its virtual machine anymore, and all the apps that would break in the world. "Now, they can continue forward without costly ports. And since almost all large companies will or do have both .Net and Java, anything that will promote interop will be big value." John Rymer, an analyst with Forrester Inc. of Boston, said Microsoft and Sun can focus on security in the short term and focus on deeper interoperability later. "Microsoft and Sun will first make it easier to use their respective directory servers together to improve application security. Next, the companies will focus on operating-system interoperability," he said. Meanwhile, Rymer said, "Interoperability of the key protocols and formats of Java 2 Enterprise Edition [J2EE] and .Net, as well as Java language support of .NET, would be the big wins for enterprise customers—and should be the top priority of the new partners." IBM is a common enemy for the two companies, Rymer added, and open-source technology represents a common threat. Sun and Microsoft share an interest in providing customers with an alternative to IBM for mixed environments, he said. And "Microsoft and Sun can compete with open source by reducing the cost of implementation through out-of-the-box interoperability," he said. Next Page: Execs stress respecting each others IP.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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