Xandros Linux signs up for Microsoft patent protection

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Xandros Linux signs up for Microsoft patent protection

Microsoft has unveiled a partnership with Linux vendor Xandros that mimics the controversial Novell deal.

Microsoft will provide Xandros users with a patent covenant that protect users of the software from intellectual property claims. Microsoft will provide the patent license directly to the end user, which allows it to circumvent patent licensing requirements in the General Public Licence (GPL) that governs Linux.


The two vendors furthermore said that they will collaborate to improve the interoperability between Xandros and Microsoft software for servers and systems management. Xandros also will join Microsoft in building tools that translate between the Open Document Format and Microsoft's Open XML document format.

Xandros is best known as a desktop Linux distribution. The firm in April 2006 started shipping a server version of its operating system. Last March it unveiled Xandros BridgeWays, a system management tool that supports systems including the major Linux distributions, Solaris and Windows.

The BridgeWays product drove the partnership, executives for both companies told vnunet.com in an interview.

"For us to be able to have tightly coupled technologies inside our products [with Microsoft products,] you can not achieve that without actually sitting down with Microsoft," said Andreas Typaldos, chief executive officer for Xandros.

The company will use Web Services for Management standard as well as an applications programming interfaces where available. But such standards don't cover all the technology required to provide granular control needs, said David Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager of intellectual property licensing.

"Interoperability isn't just an API, or just a protocol or just a standard. It sometimes requires the sharing of documentation and source code, and sometimes proprietary and royalty free mechanisms," said Kaefer.

Financial details of the partnership weren't disclosed. Typaldos said that Xandros will make royalty payments to Microsoft based on shipping products, but isn't compensating the company for the shared development work.

The deal reminds of the partnership that Microsoft and Novell signed last November, but differs on a few points.

In the Novell deal, Microsoft purchased a license for Novell intellectual property and bought 70,000 Suse Linux coupons. Novell in return is compensating Microsoft for its intellectual property, but still receives a net payment of US$308m.

The technology part of the Novell partnership furthermore focused on virtualisation as well as interoperability.

Microsoft doesn't pay Xandros for any of its intellectual property, won't purchase any of its software and the two firms also didn't mention virtualisation.

It is unclear if the Xandros agreement will stand the test of time. The forthcoming third version of the GPL will ban any patent agreements that were signed after 28 March this year. While this allows the Novell-Microsoft partnership to proceed, it is expected to block the Xandros one.

Co-author of the GPLv3 Eben Moglen has denounced exclusive patent deals with Microsoft as a "divide and conquer" tactic that is designed to break up the open source community.

Microsoft and Xandros declined to comment on the implications of GPLv3 on the deal, pointing out that licence is currently in a draft stage and might still change.
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