Microsoft, shrugging off licensing moves to prevent it from repeating its controversial patent deal with Novell, has signed a set of broad collaboration agreements with Linux provider Xandros that include an intellectual property assurance under which Microsoft will provide patent covenants for Xandros customers.
These covenants, which are almost identical to the patent agreement and covenant not to sue that Microsoft signed with Novell last November, will ensure that the Xandros Linux technologies customers use are compliant with Microsofts IP, David Kaefer, Microsofts General Manager for IP and Licensing, told eWeek
The collaboration agreements between Microsoft and Xandros, which are valid for five-years and will be announced June 4, also cover a set of technical, business and marketing commitments designed to give customers enhanced interoperability and more effective systems management solutions, he said.
Under the agreement, Microsoft and Xandros will focus on five primary areas over the next five years: systems management interoperability, server interoperability, office document compatibility, sales and marketing support, and IP assurance.
The IP assurance deal comes hot on the heels of the release of the fourth, and final, draft of the GNU General Public License Version 3.0 on May 31, which says that distributors that make discriminatory patent deals after March 28 may not convey software under GPLv3.
But that provision, which was designed in large part to stop similar patent deals to the controversial Microsoft-Novell one, does not stop Novell from distributing software under GPLv3 "because the patent protection they arranged with Microsoft last November can be turned against Microsoft to the communitys benefit," Free Software Foundation Executive Director Peter Brown said.
When asked about this, Microsofts Kaefer told eWeek that this was the same legal structure used to clear patents in the Novell deal, and the IP assurances given to Xandros were almost identical to the covenant not to sue that it signed with Novell.
"This agreement was negotiated between the parties based on the current version of the GPL. Both Microsoft and Xandros will be flexible should new market developments require us to adjust. As a design principle we do our best to make certain our agreements comply with the legal obligations on both companies. GPLv3 is not yet finalized and there are probably others better positioned to comment" Kaefer said.
On the systems management interoperability front, Xandros will partner with Microsoft to deliver management packs that will work with the next generation of Microsoft Systems Center management products. Work on this will start immediately, Kaefer said.
Xandros will also join Microsoft and other management vendors in implementing the WS-Management set of protocols in its products and in various systems management standardization efforts.
With regard to server interoperability, Xandros will license a broad set of Microsoft server communications protocols and develop enhancements to its Xandros Server software that will allow it to perform more like a Windows Server in a network setting, but Kaefer declined to give any more details about this aspect of the agreement, saying that would be shared later.
Xandros will also join Microsoft and other companies who are building open-source translators for documents stored in Microsofts OpenXML format and the Open Document Format. The translators will ship with the next releases of Xandros desktop offering, he said.
Xandros will also become a Microsoft preferred Linux server and desktop provider because of their shared commitment to interoperability and IP, meaning that Microsofts sales and marketing organization will be trained how best to communicate the value propositions of this collaboration to customers, Kaefer said, adding that Xandros would also join the Microsoft Interoperability Vendor Alliance.
But, unlike with Novell, where Microsoft bought certificates for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Microsoft will not be distributing Xandros offerings, he said.
For Andreas Typaldos, the CEO of Xandros, these agreements recognize the heterogeneity of customer platforms. "Companies today are running a mixture of Linux and Windows systems. Cross-platform data centers are a reality. To meet evolving customer needs, vendors need to recognize the value of sharing intellectual property, developing more interoperable solutions and providing management tools that are familiar and easy to use," he said.
For Kaefer, the agreement is the latest collaboration with Linux platform and open-source software providers, including Novell, JBoss, XenSource, Samsung, Zend and Fuji-Xerox.
Asked what Microsoft was doing to optimize Windows for Xandros, Kaefer said that while there was a good deal of focus on what Xandros will do to work better with Windows under the agreement, it will also include the work that Microsoft has underway to promote interoperability.
"The Office translator and WS-Management collaboration are two platform neutral examples of ways vendors can adopt common technical solutions and standards in order to foster interoperability. These are two concrete areas in which Microsoft is taking proactive steps in its own products to foster interoperability with Xandros," he said.