Linspire Hooks Up with Microsoft, Too
Published: June 20, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
You would think that partnerships with commercial Linux distributors were like baseball cards, the way that Microsoft is collecting them. You are supposed to collect baseball cards and trade them with your friends, but in this case, Microsoft seems to be collecting Linux distros as its friends. In any event, late last week, Microsoft announced that Linspire, which has prevailed in legal battles against the Windows powerhouse, has inked a cooperation pact similar to those negotiated by Novell and Xandros.
Novell's partnership with Microsoft, which was announced last November, is primarily focused on the server environment, and Microsoft agreed to work on interoperability issues between Linux and Windows, to give Novell's customers protection from lawsuits concerning possible intellectual property issues within Linux as it relates to Microsoft's patent portfolio and other intellectual property, and to buy $240 million worth of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 licenses that it can distribute to its Windows customers who also want to support Linux. So far, as of the end of Novell's second fiscal quarter, 38 percent of the revenue attributed to this five-year deal has been recognized by Novell. This would seem to be a pretty good indicator that some Windows shops--very likely the largest customers with the most diverse data centers--want Linux a lot more than Microsoft might have anticipated.
This is perhaps one reason why two weeks ago, Microsoft inked a similar patent protection, co-marketing, and interoperability deal with Xandros, the Linux firm that was created out of the Corel Linux distro, which is based on Debian Linux. Xandros has put years into making its Linux look more familiar to Windows shops, and has created a set of system management tools that allow Windows administrators to handle Linux servers running Xandros Server or Xandros Desktop to use tools that are familiar to them to keep that Linux gear running. The financial details of the Xandros-Microsoft deal were not announced, and it is hard to say if any money changed hands at all. (If you put a gun to my head and made me guess, I would say that no money changed hands, but Microsoft is getting information from Xandros, which is more valuable than cash to the software giant.)
Which brings us to Linspire, formerly known as Lindows until it settled a trademark lawsuit in July 2004 in its favor with Microsoft regarding the Lindows name. Linspire, which got $20 million out of Microsoft in that suit, was founded in 2001 by serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson, who made a big chunk of change with a site called MP3.com. Like Xandros, Linspire has been trying to make Linux more palatable to Windows shops, and the agreement that Linspire has with Microsoft aims to make the interoperability of Linspire Linux and Windows products a bit easier. One side effect, of course, is that the partnership will enable customers to more easily move from Windows to Linux on their desktops, which is something you think Microsoft would not want to be trying to encourage as customers contemplate their options as they face an upgrade to Windows Vista on the desktop. Plenty of people want to stick with Windows XP for now, and some tiny minority may want to move to Linux.
As part of the Linspire-Microsoft deal, the two companies will work to ensure that the OpenXML format used by Microsoft in its Office suite can be converted to and from the OpenDocument Format used by the OpenOffice open source alternative to Office. Linspire is also licensing Microsoft's TrueType fonts, which are arguably the best screen and printing fonts among the various operating systems in the world, and Microsoft's RT audio codec, too. The audio codec will be used to add voice capability with Linspire's Pidgin IM client that is compatible with the similar voice functions inside Microsoft's Office Communicator and Windows Live Messenger IM clients. Linspire is also licensing the full set of audio and video codecs from Windows Media Player 10, which will allow future Linspire releases to share media files with the Windows platform more easily. These three technologies will be separately priced add-on products for the Linspire Linux platform.
Under the deal, Linspire is also parking Microsoft's Live Search competitor to the Google Toolbar on its Linspire 5.0 release as the default search engine when this Linux starts up. Linspire customers are also being covered by a patent covenant similar to those offered by Novell and Xandros in the Linux space and to other high tech companies that offer other products.
"Linspire has always been about choice, and this announcement continues our tradition of offering options for improved interoperability, enhanced functionality and confidence," said Kevin Carmony, Linspire's chief executive officer, in announcing the deal with Microsoft. "Over the years, in an effort to expand choice, we have entered into dozens of agreements with commercial software vendors. It certainly made sense to collaborate with Microsoft, one of the most important partners in the PC ecosystem."
The obvious question is this: Will Red Hat do a similar deal? Thus far, the dominant Linux vendor in the world has shown no inclination to do so. But stranger things have happened in the IT world. That's for sure.
Xandros Inks Patent Protection, Interoperability Deal with Microsoft, Too
Microsoft-Novell Deal Has Escape Clause
Microsoft Claims Linux Violates 42 of Its Patents
The Microsoft-Novell Marriage of Two Minds Starts to Go Schizo
Microsoft and Novell in Landmark Partnership
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