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Microsoft To Announce Linux Partnership 534

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Microsoft is entering into an unusual partnership with Novell that gives a boost to Linux, people familiar with the companies tell WSJ.com. From the article: 'Under the pact, which isn't final, Microsoft will offer sales support of Suse Linux, a version of the operating system sold by Novell. The two companies have also agreed to develop technologies to make it easier for users to run both Suse Linux and Microsoft's Windows on their computers. The two companies are expected to announce details of their plan today at a press conference in San Francisco. In addition, Microsoft won't assert rights over patents over software technology that may be incorporated into Suse Linux, the people said. Businesses that use Linux have long worried that Microsoft would one day file patent infringement suits against sellers of the rival software.'"
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Microsoft To Announce Linux Partnership

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  • Very simply... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turgid ( 580780 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @04:48PM (#16694275) Journal

    I dont understand why Microsoft has been so friendly to OSS sofwtare on windows, but this is well strange.

    By getting their technology ("Intellectual Property", patents etc.) into SuSE Linux, the automatically get Novell and all of its SuSE customers hooked on MS IP. Then, other users will succumb, because they will see the features in SuSE and either migrate or demand it in their own distros.

    Then, Microsoft goes back on the deal and wipes out corporate Linux, and probably forces all of those users on to Windows by some upgrade plan that's impossible to refuse.

    Anyone remember OS/2? It was going to run DOS, Windows and OS/2 programs.

    Then NT came along...

    Plan B is if Windows dies, Microsoft has a foot in the door of corporate Linux.

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @04:50PM (#16694305) Homepage Journal
    Why would Microsoft help a competitor?

    Maybe you could ask Steve Jobs. I think he might know.
  • by VEGETA_GT ( 255721 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @04:52PM (#16694333)
    I think it has to do with the fact hey are going to develop software to run both suse and windows at the same time. think about it, getting suse users to run windows on thre sytem while not having to lose suse, its another license and more cash for M$. Also they could make the software buggy specifically towards suse and O darn, its easer to deal with windows in this setup, then guess what people well use.
  • We do Linux too! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jhines ( 82154 ) <john@jhines.org> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @04:56PM (#16694415) Homepage
    It sounds like some ammo for the sales force, when the client mentions Linux, and keeps MS in the bidding.
  • by yurik ( 160101 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @04:57PM (#16694457)
    I suspect Microsoft needs a common programming platform, and its Mono they are after.

    The adaption of .NET in the enterprise was very slow, mostly because most backends have been exclusively Unix/Linux based. Having two infrastructures at the same time is fairly expensive to maintain - an enterprise basically needs two groups of admins.

    Mono solves the problem of running .net on Unix, but its legal status makes many people worried, thus Java is much heavier present in the enterprise, thus eventually it will get to the point of having as nice UI as WinForms from both visual and developer's perspective. The moment it happens, being a cross-platform Java will run on both Unix & Windows - not good for MS.

    This partnership sends a clear message to all enterprise architects: Mono is OK, we won't sue you. The extent of this is unclear... Will wait and see :)
  • Re:It's a trap! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ebob9 ( 726509 ) * on Thursday November 02, 2006 @04:58PM (#16694481)
    --Conspiracy-Tinfoil hat required content--

    Yknow, Microsoft didn't get any millage out of SCO. So they thought, "Hey, lets butter up Novell. Partner with them and help them get some market share."

    In 12 months, when Novell hasn't gotten much market traction, Microsoft may suggest "It's because of all the Linux companies competing against *your* UNIX business.. Don't you own the rights to that?"

    *lawsuits ensue*

    --Safe to remove Conspiracy-Tinfoil hat--
    (or is it??)

  • Re:Very simply... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turgid ( 580780 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @05:19PM (#16694777) Journal

    And do you think Microsoft's "promises" not to charge for patents, and so forth, will be worth the paper they're written on, if they are indeed written down at all?

    RMS is indeed a wise man.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @05:28PM (#16694931) Homepage
    Microsoft has been nicer since Bill Gates left the CEO position to Steve Balmer but Microsoft must have an incentive. Why would Microsoft help a competitor?

    Specifically, so they can prove they have competitors is my cynical response.

    When people say MS is a monopoly, they get to point to Apple and Linux and say "see, we have competition". By helping Linux, they can keep that interpretation in place. In this case, specifically in the enterprise segment.

    As soon as it looks like they have no viable competition in the server market, they are wide open for getting smacked down for doing things they oughtn't be doing.

    But, I could be way off base on this one. It's happened before. :-P

  • Re:wtf? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @05:45PM (#16695251) Homepage
    The GPL v2 doesn't contain patent provisions.

    Yes it does. The gist of them being: if you can't grant downstream distributers the same licenses to any patents in the code that you have, then you can't distribute.

    So, this is either a clever way to keep Novell from distributing SUSE, or a clever way to keep Novell as nervous as hell about what it distributes as part of any GPL'd code. (MS is just promising not to prosecute Novell over patents, it's not (AFAICT) granting a license much less any sub-licensing rights.)

    Now, never mind just SUSE, think about Mono for a bit.

  • by quentin_quayle ( 868719 ) <quentin_quayle AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @06:15PM (#16695845)
    The clue is in this line: "The two companies have also agreed to develop technologies to make it easier for users to run both Suse Linux and Microsoft's Windows on their computers."

    Remember the recent MSoft/Xen collaboration? MS is making a version of Windows that can serve as the hypervisor that other OS's run on top of. Microsoft's interest here is to make sure Windows is at the bottom layer so they can enforce DRM, "trusted computing" and ultimate control of the box, and collect fees when everyone is using virtual Linux etc.. What they want to prevent is a future where free software is at the bottom of the stack and virtual Windows instances are brought up when needed.

    That's my guess. To make this happen they have to get their hooks into at least one big Linux distro so they can say, here, you can run virtual Linux on Windows.
  • by MadJo ( 674225 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @06:42PM (#16696283) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft won't assert rights over patents over software technology that may be incorporated into Suse Linux

    But what about Fedora Core, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Mepis, Debian, Gentoo, and all those other distributions. Are they too exempt from possible prosecution?
    I doubt that.
  • Re:wtf? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <bill@billrocks.org> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @06:45PM (#16696305) Homepage
    You're probably right about the EULA. One less thing to worry about. However, the GPL does not indemnify users from being sued by Microsoft (nor SCO). Novell is free to license patents from Microsoft, SCO, or whoever in order to protect their users, but if I were Novell, I'd make sure that protection didn't apply to anyone who redistributes my distro. Software patents pose a real danger to Linux. Did you hear that Microsoft has been funding SCO to pursue the lawsuits? It remains to be seen what Microsoft will do once SCO goes down in flames. Without Bill Gates at the helm providing some level of insight, they just might come out strong with their lawyers. After all, it's not statistically likely for a complex project like a Linux distro to be completely clean against such a massive software patent portfolio as Microsoft's, no matter how hard we try.
  • Re:wtf? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IWannaBeAnAC ( 653701 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @07:20PM (#16696799)
    Sorry, I wasn't clear in my post I think, the issue is not whether you can selectively license patents. That is obvious that is no (legal) problem. The issue is whether, out of a group of companies that have no license agreement, you can slectively sue some of them but not others. To repeat: there has not been any suggestion of M$ making a formal licence agreement with Novell.
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @07:24PM (#16696851) Homepage Journal

    Fewer players in the Linux world, and preferably one dominant vendor, means one opponent for Microsoft. Would you rather fight a distributed and decentralized enemy, or a centrally-controlled one with a well-defined center of gravity?

    The more standardized and less fragmented Linux is, the more Linux is like the traditional competitors Microsoft is used to crushing. My guess is that Microsoft's current attitude toward Linux is based on this assumption. Will Microsoft's attempts to manipulate the Linux market succeed? Probably not. But that won't stop them from trying.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:09PM (#16697415)
    Ok, 2 ways I see this;

    1) they wanted Apple out of their hair, make them partners, stop direct competition, provide IE and Office to pander to the niche, and make sure Macs remained a niche.

    All that did was buy Apple some space to reorganise and come back. Their latest moves (an offical way to boot XP on intel macs) puts them head to head with Microsoft. They're wooing people who still need XP for something in the hope that those people will switch to OsX.

    2) Make Microsoft not look like a monopolist. Invest in your competition and suddenly your competitors are now your partners.

    In this case, I suspect it's more a case of point 1. Novell has the Ximian boys, it has a leading server distro and what's starting to look like a de facto *corporate* linux desktop, so this is a move to head off a linux push to the desktop.

  • Re:wtf? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rpdillon ( 715137 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:53PM (#16698569) Homepage
    The GPL v2 stipulates that you may not redistribute code if you cannot grant downstream users the same patent use that you have. So, if MS decided to license to Novell and ONLY Novell, Novell can no longer distribute their distro open source under the GPL. Which, of course, means they cannot redistribute at all.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351