Microsofts Muglia Talks Longhorn, Novell and Java

Q&A: Windows Server "Longhorn" is now in the spotlight following the release to manufacturing of Windows Vista and Office 2007.

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BARCELONA, Spain—Now that Windows Vista and Office 2007 have been released to manufacturing, the spotlight is on Windows Server "Longhorn." Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for server and tools sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at TechEd: IT Forum here to give an update on Longhorns road map, discuss the companys controversial deal with Novell and give his thoughts on Sun Microsystems decision to license Java under the GNU GPL.

Tell me about the recent deal with Novell and what the executive thinking was behind that?

Weve been working a long time to try and get an agreement with a major distribution vendor. We did the XenSource deal in the summer, which focused on virtualization and interoperability, and you could say they are under contract to us to provide a piece of Longhorn Server.

The work with Novell is somewhat different because really, they are a major distribution vendor and its really focused on interoperability there. There are a couple of major parts to that: One is responding to the demands customers have about this to have Linux and Windows interoperate; while the other piece is that this is the answer to questions customers have had about the assurance that they are in compliance with intellectual property rules with Linux.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about whats covered by the Novell-Microsoft patent agreement.

Since the advent of open-source software and its usage by business customers, there has been an open question about intellectual property. So this deal is a milestone in that it shows how commercial and open-source companies can work together to assure customers that when they acquire Novell SUSEs open-source technology they are in compliance with, and are respecting, all of the intellectual property that exists in the environment.

Under the terms of the deal there is no covenant for the two companies not to sue one another. The patent protection is just for customers, right?

That is the case and customers are the ones that matter here and were the focus of the deal. When you start getting into broader covenants not to sue between two companies you hit a whole set of different intellectual property rules.

Novell filed an 8-K recently in which it said that you have agreed not to do a similar deal with another Linux vendor to encourage the adoption of Linux and Windows virtualization solutions through a subscription certificate program. Doesnt that go against all your talk of wanting to get agreements with the other Linux vendors?

We do want to be open to everybody, but there is no limitation in the agreement that prevents us from working with the other distribution vendors to get a similar set of intellectual property patent protections for their customers, and we very much would like to make that happen as its good for customers and the other distribution vendors.

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However, the ability we have to offset customer costs associated with that transition is a Novell-focused thing and what that comes down to is that you get some advantage to being first. It was a fairly substantive step for Novell to make this transition and we will help those customers make that transition.

Are you talking to Red Hat in this regard on an ongoing basis?

We have been and we do communicate with Red Hat, and in fact we continue to reach out and want to work with them and want to structure a relationship where Red Hat customers can be assured of the same thing that Novell customers are.

Do you think thats likely?

Youll have to ask Red Hat that question. I hope so. We really want to do this.

Next Page: The motivation behind the deal.