Xandros Inks Patent Protection, Interoperability Deal with Microsoft, Too
Published: June 6, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Linux distributor Xandros has seen the commercial wisdom of one of its rival's ways and has inked a patent protection and interoperability agreement with proprietary operating system and middleware rival Microsoft.
The deal Xandros has made with Microsoft falls well short of the landmark deal that Novell negotiated with the software giant in November 2006, which included protections for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Desktop users against possible litigation by Microsoft for any potential infractions of Microsoft's patents or other intellectual property within most of the components--but not all--in the SLES 10 and SLED 10 distributions. Microsoft also signed a five-year distribution deal to peddle some $240 million worth of SLES 10 licenses, and as of the end of April has moved $91 million of the licenses so far, to the great joy of Novell.
Xandros, of course, has been touting its server and desktop variants (which are based on Debian Linux) as being friendly to Windows shops--particularly those that do not have Linux skills and want to learn as few as possible and yet want to deploy Linux for certain workloads.
"Companies today are running a mixture of Linux and Windows systems," said Andreas Typaldos, chief executive officer at Xandros, in a statement announcing the deal. "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."
The Xandros-Microsoft deal is a five-year effort to accomplish a bunch of different things. First, the intellectual property assurance, which provides patent covenants for Xandros customers. (As is the case with the Novell deal, there are probably exceptions to the tools that are given coverage by these covenants, such as OpenOffice and Open-Xchange, which are not covered in the Novell-Microsoft deal.) The two companies will work together to make sure Microsoft's System Center and Xandros' BridgeWays systems management tools are not at loggerheads when they deal with Windows and Linux servers.
Xandros is also licensing unspecified communications protocols, presumably to enhance the interoperability of its Linux distribution with Windows, and vice versa. Xandros and Microsoft are also going to work together with other members of the IT community to make sure that the Open XML and Open Document Format formats for Office and OpenOffice documents will be interchangeable; such functionality will be provided through a set of formatting conversion tools, and an upcoming release of Xandros Desktop will include these tools.
Finally, Microsoft is now endorsing Xandros Desktop and Xandros Server as a "preferred Linux distribution," which is little more than a seal of approval from Microsoft backed by unspecified sales and marketing support. Microsoft will train a team of people to know and understand Xandros and pitch it when it is appropriate to its Windows base, and Xandros is joining Microsoft's Interop Vendor Alliance, which seeks to bridge the gap between Windows and other platforms.
There is no indication from the announcement that Xandros and Microsoft exchanged money under this deal, and Microsoft would not disclose any financial details of the transaction when asked about it. That doesn't mean Xandros did not pay for patent protection, however--nor does it mean that the company did. No one knows, at least not until someone talks or Microsoft has to file a financial statement where it is required to tell us about it. This deal is so small that it may not force a regulatory filing, much less a mention in a 10-Q report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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