Microsoft Cuts Another Open Source Deal

Microsoft and Linux distributorXandros announced a broad agreement on Monday based on several technical and intellectual property commitments aimed at extending the software giant’s relationship with commercial open source vendors.

The technology-sharing agreement with the Linux distributor marks the latest in a series of deals designed to help the patent-protected Windows operating system work smoothly with open source programs.

New York-based Xandros, which makes and distributes open source desktop and server software, will license server code from Microsoft and develop software tools that work with its systems, according to the companies.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Multiple Operating Systems

Because companies increasingly are running a mixture of Linux and Windows systems, cross-platform data centers have become a reality, said Andreas Typaldos, chief executive officer of Xandros.

“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.

Configuring a Combination of Systems

As more and more customers continue to run heterogeneous environments, Microsoft will continue to forge new open source deals, predicted Laura DiDio, a Yankee Group analyst.

“On average, corporations have three different operating systems present in their shops,” she told LinuxInsider. “Customers want to use specific operating systems for specific jobs.”

In fact, approximately two-thirds of businesses now run some type of Linux configuration, estimated Didio.

“Windows isn’t going away, and Linux and open source are only expanding,” she said.

Open Source Spreading

The deal, which will initially run for five years, is similar to the pact Microsoft struck with Novell last November, when Redmond agreed to pay Novell US$240 million for Suse Linux Enterprise Server subscription and support certificates.

That agreement, which included a controversial clause requiring Microsoft to promise it would not sue Novell’s Linux customers, raised concerns that Microsoft might mount intellectual property claims against other open source distributors.

However, says DiDio, the Microsoft deal with Novell “has done wonders and has been very well received.”

Extending Programs

Microsoft will endorse Xandros server and desktop programs as preferred Linux distributions, and it will include patent protections for the open source distributor’s customers.

In the past, the open source community has feared lawsuits from Microsoft, which has claimed that open source software infringes many of its patents.

That is because many companies and government agencies rely on elements of both Microsoft’s Windows and various versions of Linux to run their office networks.

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