Microsoft and Red Hat: Talking About Not Talking

We may now have an answer to the question of whether Red Hat and Microsoft are talking about intellectual property and patents—they aren't—but that issue is far from dead. Horatio Gutierrez, Microsoft's vice president for intellectual property and licensing, has finally confirmed that while the company talks to Red Hat about interoperability from time to time, there are no talks under way about IP or patents.

That confirms what Red Hat has consistently said: that it is not interested in doing an IP or patent deal with Microsoft, most certainly not like the one Novell signed with Redmond.

But, oddly enough, it has recently declined to say if it is talking to Microsoft in this regard.

So why has Microsoft come forward and confirmed they aren't talking? Probably to put pressure on the Linux vendor to reconsider its position.

There can be little doubt that Red Hat is worried about the loss of some business from a number of large enterprises who are enthusiastic about the technical cooperation and patent indemnification agreement signed by Microsoft and Novell last year.

I have spoken to some of those enterprises, and they see value in the interoperability and other benefits that will result from the technical work between the two companies, as well as the legal certainty the patent covenant brings them.

While Red Hat and Microsoft do talk about interoperability every now and then, and the Linux vendor has joined the Interoperability Vendor Alliance, there can be no question that some of Red Hat's enterprise customers are pushing it to consider trying to find a middle ground with Microsoft.

While Red Hat's silence about the fact that it is not talking to Microsoft might well have been the safest route until now and provided some cover from those enterprise customers wanting it to do more with Microsoft, Redmond has effectively blown that cover.

But things have not exactly been easy for Novell and Microsoft either. The Free Software Foundation threw a wrench in the works with the recent release of the GNU General Public License Version 3, which pitted Microsoft against Novell.

No sooner had the license been finalized than Microsoft came out and said that it was not legally bound by GPLv3 in any way and that it would not provide support or updates for any code licensed under GPLv3 in terms of the deal it penned in November with Novell to administer certificates for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Novell then responded by saying it would support customers with a regular SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription, regardless of the terms of the certificates provided by Microsoft.

So watch this space. I think we're in for a lot more interesting developments on these fronts over the coming months.