Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat & Novell II

(A follow up to previous coverage)

As you may have guessed, this topic is being discussed heavily around the web. Mark Radcliffe points out that Open Source companies are likely becoming a more tempting target to patent trolls due to the stunning growth in the sector (keep in mind that Microsoft, Apple, et al. put up with this kind of thing all the time):

Although I and many attorneys in the open source industry have long been concerned about patent challenges to open source companies, this case appears to be the first by patent trolls against an open source licensor. The open source industry provides a tempting target because of its rapid growth. This morning, Eben Moglen at the Software Freedow Law Center Seminar on FOSS issues noted that Brad Bunnell of Microsoft joined Acacia on October 1 . According to news reports, Brad spent sixteen years at Microsoft at a number of positions which included General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing. http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/071001/20071001005590.html?.v=1

Eben raises the intriguing question about whether these incidents are related. Given the time that it takes to prepare a patent lawsuit, Brad’s hiring probably did not effect the filing of this lawsuit. However the hiring may indicate the addition of a new business line for Acacia: suits against open source companies. Steve Ballmer’s recent comments about Red Hat’s obligation to pay Microsoft for alleged use of its patents makes this lawsuit and the timing of the move interesting.

Matt Asay points out a list of coincidences:

* One or more former Microsoft licensing execs join Acacia or one or its companies;
* Ballmer makes his most recent statement regarding Red Hat;
* Almost the same day, Red Hat (and presumbably Novell) receive notice of the alleged infringement from IP Innovation (Acacia);
* Before either company has a chance to consider the letter and respond, IP Innovation files its lawsuit in Texas;
* Novell changes all of its IP indemnification the same day (which it has named “Technology Assurance Program” as contrasted with Red Hat’s Open Source Assurance Program Novell apparently isn’t interested in assuring open source, just technology ;-);
* Novell’s new program notes a change in the Microsoft/Novell deal that covers GPLv3 code distributed by Novell for downstream recipients.

Hmm….I forget sometimes who is on which team, but it certainly seems like two sides have been conspiring on this, and I don’t mean IP Innovation and Microsoft (which is almost a given).

Stephen Walli (who was still at Microsoft when the SCO suit was launched) gives some advice that I couldn’t agree with more: Take a deep breath. Be calm. He continues:

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to involve itself in the broken patent system. The Linux Foundation and the Open Invention Network are both geared for this particular fight. I have confidence that the Groklaw community will step into the breach of reporting and investigation again. IBM, Intel, and HP have a vested interest in the outcome, and nobody plays IP games the way IBM does. Over the next few weeks, lawyers will come together behind the scenes from all the interested parties on the defending side. Hopefully egos won’t be too large, and a coherent plan of negotiation will emerge.

Some of the more interesting questions for me will be:

* Why Red Hat AND Novell?
* Why not Microsoft? (Acacia went after Apple who settled. Microsoft would seem to have deeper pockets than Red Hat or Novell. It would seem to be the more interesting business discussion.)
* If Microsoft is not involved, should they be? If Apple settled, and then this suit settles, Microsoft should know they’re next on the list. Or are they trusting IBM et al to win this one for them?

To quote one of my favourite lawyers in this space:

“If the F/OSS community wants to be in commercial space, community members will have to learn to deal calmly with IP litigation. The F/OSS production model will work where it makes sense, and it will not work where it doesn’t. It’s really just that simple. Particular claims in individual suits—even one against a flagship program such as the GNU/Linux OS—will not determine the fate of the community. Such cases present factual issues that will get resolved one way or another; they do not represent a crisis for F/OSS production as a whole. Norm entrepreneurial rhetoric that plays off such cases should be treated as entertainment. Enjoy it if you like it, take inspiration from it if you must, but don’t confuse it with the way things actually get done.”

I’m sure some former colleagues at Microsoft are excited. Mr. Smith and Mr. Ballmer most assuredly. But just as with the SCO Group litigation, there is no reason to celebrate. They shouldn’t confuse this with “the way things actually get done.” Pax.

I do find it interesting that Acacia went from Apple to Red Hat / Novell, when Microsoft surely would have been a much more compelling target from a business perspective. It becomes a simple case of follow the money from there. More information will come out of this in the coming weeks and months, so staying calm and focusing on what’s important is surely the correct course of action.

–jeremy

Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat & Novell

Earlier this month, Ballmer reiterated his stance on patents and Linux:

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has warned users of Red Hat Linux that they will have to pay Microsoft for its intellectual property.

“People who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to compensate us,” Ballmer said last week at a company event in London discussing online services in the UK.

Red Hat quickly fired back:

Red Hat is assuring its customers that they can continue to deploy its Linux operating system with confidence and without fear of legal retribution from Microsoft, despite the increasingly vocal threats emanating from the Redmond, Wash., company.

In a scathing response to Ballmer’s remarks, Red Hat’s IP team said the reality is that the community development approach of free and open-source code represents a healthy development paradigm, which, when viewed from the perspective of pending lawsuits related to intellectual property, is at least as safe as proprietary software.

“We are also aware of no patent lawsuit against Linux. Ever. Anywhere,” the team said in a blog posting.

The Linux vendor, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., also gives customers open-source intellectual property protections through its Open Source Assurance Program, which includes a promise to replace the software if there is an intellectual property issue.

“This provides customers with assurances of uninterrupted use of the technology solution. Protecting our customers is a top priority, and we take it very seriously. Our confidence in our technology and protections for customers remains strong and has not wavered,” the blog posting said.

While many people thought Ballmer was just continuing his FUD campaign, a scant couple days later an IP infringement lawsuit was actually filed:

Plaintiffs IP Innovation and Technology Licensing Corp. claim to have the rights to U.S. Patent No. 5,072,412 for a User Interface with Multiple Workspaces for Sharing Display System Objects issued Dec. 10, 1991 along with two other similar patents.

Defendants Red Hat Inc. and Novell have allegedly committed acts of infringement through products including the Red Hat Linux system, the Novell Suse Linex Enterprise Desktop and the Novell Suse Linex Enterprise Server.

“Red Hat’s and Novell’s infringement, contributory infringement and inducement to infringe has injured plaintiffs and plaintiffs are entitled to recover damages adequate to compensate them for such infringement but in no event less than a reasonable royalty,” the original complaint states.

The plaintiffs also allege that defendants received notice of the patents, therefore the infringing activities have been deliberate and willful.

Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction from the court, increased damages and other relief that the court or a jury may deem just and proper.

T. John Ward Jr. of Ward & Smith Law Firm in Longview is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis.

You have to find it ironic that “IP Innovation” is suing based on something seemingly obvious that was patented in a 1991 by Xerox. Things get interesting from there though. It seems IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia. Looking at Acacia closer, you see:

In July 2007, Acacia Research Corporation announced that Jonathan Taub joined its Acacia Technologies group as Vice President. Mr. Taub joins Acacia from Microsoft, where he was Director, Strategic Alliances for the Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED) division since 2004.

and

Acacia Technologies Names Brad Brunell, Former Microsoft General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing, to Management Team

Monday October 1, 6:01 am ET

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Acacia Research Corporation (NASDAQ:ACTG – News) announced today that its Acacia Technologies group, a leader in technology licensing, has named Brad Brunell as Senior Vice President.

Mr. Brunell joins Acacia from Microsoft, where during his 16 year career he held a number of management positions, including General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing.

So the SCOX trial isn’t even officially over and we already have a company with large Microsoft ties filing a clear patent troll case against Linux. You think they’d at least hide the connections better this time. It should be noted that IP Innovation appears to have previously gotten some money out of Apple for this, so it’s not simply aimed at FOSS. How much of this are we going to have to go though until the system is actually fixed? Too much. Let the SCO II games begin.

–jeremy

Microsoft kills its 'Get the Facts' anti-Linux site

A little late on this one, but Microsoft has replaced its Get the Facts site with one that is ostensibly less biased.

“The goal of the site is to offer more in-depth information and customer-to-customer opinions about many of the issues IT administrators face,” a company spokeswoman said. “It turns out people wanted 3rd party validation in addition to people’s experiences making OS purchasing decisions so in addition to customer case studies, research reports that compare platforms the site will also offer guidance around best practices, web casts, etc.”

Who would have thought people wouldn’t fully trust what a company said about their own products without “3rd party validation”. I don’t find it too interesting that the site was pulled down. After all, the Get the Facts campaign had been debunked and derided to the point that is was certainly doing more harm than good. I do find it interesting, however, that the new Windows Server “Compare” site doesn’t really compare “Linux” with Windows. What is does is compare “Red Hat Enterprise Linux” with Windows. This could be taken two ways. 1) Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the only real competition in the eyes of Microsoft. 2) Microsoft is specifically targeting Red Hat as a result of it not signing a deal similar to the one Novell signed. I’ll let you be the judge.

While on the topic of the Novell deal, it looks like the Microsoft and Novell Open Interoperability Lab is now open. The Microsoft marketing team really does like to stick the word Open anywhere is can. At 2,500 square feet (or 50 x 50) there doesn’t seem to be much room for engineers, especially when you consider the room also has 80+ servers and a SAN.

–jeremy

Court Rules: Novell owns the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights

It sure has been a long time since the last SCO related post. It looks to finally be the beginning of the end for this whole fiasco. From Groklaw:

Hot off the presses: Judge Dale Kimball has issued a 102-page ruling [PDF] on the numerous summary judgment motions in SCO v. Novell. Here it is as text. Here is what matters most:

[T]he court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights.

That’s Aaaaall, Folks! The court also ruled that “SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent”. That’s the ball game. There are a couple of loose ends, but the big picture is, SCO lost. Oh, and it owes Novell a lot of money from the Microsoft and Sun licenses.

Judge Kimball asks the parties, in view of the ruling in Novell, which “significantly impacts the claims and counterclaims asserted” in IBM, to prepare by August 31 “a statement of its view of the status of this case and, more specifically, the effect of the SCO v. Novell decision on each of the pending motions.”

Here’s the conclusion:

For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights. Therefore, SCO’s First Claim for Relief for slander of title and Third Claim for specific performance are dismissed, as are the copyright ownership portions of SCO’s Fifth Claim for Relief for unfair competition and Second Claim for Relief for breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court denies SCO’s cross-motion for summary judgment on its own slander of title, breach of contract, and unfair competition claims, and on Novell’s slander of title claim. Accordingly, Novell’s slander of title claim is still at issue.

The court also concludes that, to the extent that SCO has a copyright to enforce, SCO can simultaneously pursue both a copyright infringement claim and a breach of contract claim based on the non-compete restrictions in the license back of the Licensed Technology under APA and the TLA. The court further concludes that there has not been a change of control that released the non-compete restrictions of the license, and the non-compete restrictions of the license are not void under California law. Accordingly, Novell’s motion for summary judgment on SCO’s non-compete claim in its Second Claim for breach of contract and Fifth Claim for unfair competition is granted to the extent that SCO’s claims require ownership of the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights, and denied in all other regards.

Furthermore, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that the only reasonable interpretation of the term “SVRX License” in the APA is all licenses related to the SVRX products listed in Item VI of Schedule 1.1(a) to the APA. Therefore, Novell is entitled to a declaration of rights under its Fourth Claim for Relief that it was and is entitled, at its sole discretion, to direct SCO to waive its claims against IBM and Sequent, and SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent. Accordingly, Novell’s motion for partial summary judgment on its Fourth Claim for Relief for declaratory judgment is granted, and SCO’s cross-motion for summary judgment on Novell’s Fourth Claim for Relief is denied.

Finally, the court concludes, as a matter of law, that the only reasonable interpretation of all SVRX Licenses includes no temporal restriction of SVRX Licenses existing at the time of the APA. The court further concludes that because a portion of SCO’s 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements indisputably licenses SVRX products listed under Item VI of Schedule 1.1(a) to the APA, even if only incidental to a license for UnixWare, SCO is obligated under the APA to account for and pass through to Novell the appropriate portion relating to the license of SVRX products. Because SCO failed to do so, it breached its fiduciary duty to Novell under the APA and is liable for conversion.

The court, however, is precluded from granting a constructive trust with respect to the payments SCO received under the 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements because there is a question of fact as to the appropriate amount of SVRX Royalties SCO owes to Novell based on the portion of SVRX products contained in each agreement. Furthermore, because Novell has obtained the information that it would otherwise obtain through an accounting during the course of this litigation, the court denies Novell’s Ninth Claim for Relief for an accounting. However, the court also notes that SCO has a continuing contractual obligation to comply with the accounting and reporting requirements set forth in the APA.

What does this all mean? The case against IBM is all but a moot point now, since Novell owns the IP that SCO is suing over. In addition, SCO owes a substantial amount of the previous license money (95% at a worst case for them) to Novell. It’s pretty much game over at this point. Most of us thought this would be the end result, but in my mind there are many open questions that may never be answered. Will there be a criminal case against Yarro and/or McBride? Was this the longest running pump and dump scheme in history? What was the real reason behind Microsoft obtaining one of the original licenses from SCO and will that angle even be pursued now that Novell and Microsoft are pals? Was the recent Microsoft Novell deal structured as it was by Microsoft in anticipation of this and if so did Novell even see it coming? What was Sun’s intention in getting one of the original licenses from SCO? At the time they were fairly anti-Linux, but part of it seemed to be related to them moving toward OpenSolaris. If it’s really Novell IP how is that deal impacted and what legal ground does OpenSolaris stand on? What was the real impact of this case on Linux in general and on companies like Red Hat specifically? I have many more questions, but will be tossing them around a bit and looking for more information that will surely become available in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

Lenovo, Novell partner to offer Linux on the ThinkPad

From Ars:

ThinkPad customers will soon have a new configuration option, as Lenovo and Novell have announced that the popular laptops will begin shipping with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED) preinstalled. Although the ThinkPad has been certified for Linux for some time, this marks the first time Lenovo will ship a laptop with Linux preinstalled—while providing both hardware and OS support. Novell will provide software updates directly to ThinkPad owners, however.
Related Stories

* ThinkPad X60 laptop
* Lenovo unveils T61p ThinkPad

Lenovo says that the decision to offer Linux on its laptops comes as the result of pressure from enterprise customers. “We have seen more customers utilizing and requesting open source notebook solutions in education, government, and the enterprise since our ThinkPad T60p Linux announcement, and today’s announcement expands upon our efforts by offering customers more Linux options,” said Lenovo VP Sam Dusi in a statement.

SUSE will be available on T-series ThinkPads (Lenovo’s business-class notebooks) beginning in the fourth quarter. Aside from the choice of operating system, the SUSE ThinkPads should be in all respects identical to their Windows-running brethren.

One big difference between this and the recent Dell announcement is that this one focuses more on the enterprise, while Dell is going after the enthusiast. It’s clear that Linux demand is now mainstream, which is great. Lenovo originally made this announcement over a year ago though, and one has to wonder what took things so long to come to fruition. It’s great to see that customer demand was the key driver here. Hopefully that will keep Lenovo committed to the product line. The point where hardware manufacturers have to offer a working Linux driver is near.

–jeremy

Microsoft Statement About GPLv3 II

To answer a question I posed in a previous post about how Novell was going to handle the fact that Microsoft does not want to be a party to the GPLv3 (from the Novell PR Blog):

Shortly after the GPLv3 license was released, Microsoft issued a statement in which they expressed their view that Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 and it is therefore not applicable to them. Yesterday, they also articulated that, “to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates that includes the receipt of any code licensed under GPLv3.”

Microsoft’s current position, taken unilaterally, is intended to eliminate any perceived ambiguity about the applicability of GPLv3 to Microsoft. Nonetheless and independent of Microsoft’s position, we would like to make clear our commitment to our customers that Novell will continue to distribute SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with its full set of functionality and features, including those components that are licensed under GPLv3.

For those customers who will obtain their Linux via a certificate from Microsoft, Novell will provide them with a regular SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription, regardless of the terms of the certificate provided by Microsoft. Customers who have already received SUSE Linux Enterprise certificates from Microsoft are not affected in any way by this, since their certificates were fully delivered and redeemed prior to the publication of the GPLv3. Novell will continue to put the needs of our customers first and ensure that they can take advantage of the latest version of SUSE Linux Enterprise to run their business.

Novell and Microsoft plan to continue our technical collaboration efforts which include our joint development work on virtualization, standards-based systems management, identity interoperability and document format translators. Regarding the applicability of the covenants not to sue in the Novell-Microsoft agreement and their applicability in a GPLv3 world, our respective customers will continue to have the benefit of those provisions. For Novell customers, all Novell products are covered by the Microsoft covenant not to sue, independent of their channel of distribution, including both server and desktop and whether they are licensed under GPLv2 or GPLv3.

Whether things end up playing out that simply remains to be seen. It should also be noted that just because Microsoft doesn’t want to be party to the GPLv3 doesn’t necessarily make it so. I’m not a lawyer and won’t venture a guess as to if certificate distribution binds them legally. The issue is getting plenty of coverage, though, if you’re interested. It does strike me as odd how much ambiguity the huge Microsoft legal team continues to leave, but if that’s intentional or accidental I’m not sure. I also surprised how short sighted and unimaginative Microsoft continues to be. I guess it’s all part of protecting the cash cows. Stephe sums it up nicely:

“The (July 5) Microsoft statement seems a bit premature and over reaching,” Walli said. “Stating outright that they aren’t a party to it, means they’ve cut themselves off from using it in some future circumstance where it might be genuinely business beneficial. They would need to unmake this statement. By saying they can’t envision such a situation arising shows a lack of imagination, and makes them as religious on the issue as (Free Software Foundation founder Richard) Stallman. They remain ‘committed to working with the open source community’ without actually wanting to participate in it.”

–jeremy

Microsoft Statement About GPLv3

A quick follow up on my previous GPLv3 coverage. Here’s the official Microsoft statement:

Microsoft is not a party to the GPLv3 license and none of its actions are to be misinterpreted as accepting status as a contracting party of GPLv3 or assuming any legal obligations under such license.

While there have been some claims that Microsoft’s distribution of certificates for Novell support services, under our interoperability collaboration with Novell, constitutes acceptance of the GPLv3 license, we do not believe that such claims have a valid legal basis under contract, intellectual property, or any other law. In fact, we do not believe that Microsoft needs a license under GPL to carry out any aspect of its collaboration with Novell, including its distribution of support certificates, even if Novell chooses to distribute GPLv3 code in the future. Furthermore, Microsoft does not grant any implied or express patent rights under or as a result of GPLv3, and GPLv3 licensors have no authority to represent or bind Microsoft in any way.

At this point in time, in order to avoid any doubt or legal debate on this issue, Microsoft has decided that the Novell support certificates that we distribute to customers will not entitle the recipient to receive from Novell, or any other party, any subscription for support and updates relating to any code licensed under GPLv3. We will closely study the situation and decide whether to expand the scope of the certificates in the future.

It’s obvious why Microsoft wouldn’t want to be a party to the GPLv3, so their official position is not at all surprising. I’m not sure how Novell is going to handle the fact that a certificate that Microsoft gives out does not include support or even updates for GPLv3 software, though.

–jeremy

Red Hat CEO Says He Talked Patents with Microsoft II

A quick follow up on this post based on some questions/comments that I got via email. First, no – I absolutely don’t think Red Hat is currently in discussion with Microsoft to sign a Novell-style patent deal. Note the bolding. They may very well be in some kind of discussion, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If Microsoft privately went to Red Hat with potential patent infringements, even silly unspecified ones, then Red Hat would be obligated to address the issue. That would require discussion. It’s very tough to be the CEO of a public company these days. “No comment” is very often the only answer you can give without the MSM twisting your words in all kinds of directions. Also note that Red Hat may be in talks about specific and valid patents or talks about something completely non-patent related. Who knows – speculation on this is mostly useless. I do remain confident though, that a Novell-esque deal will not come out of this. Don’t forget that RHT is fundamentally an Open Source company. It’s in their DNA and it’s reflected in their employees and culture. Novell had one or two key people leave after they signed the deal. Red Hat would have an exodus. The C-level execs at Red Hat know this. They get Open Source at a very fundamental level themselves, in fact. The following is the last official statement I could find from Red Hat on this topic. In the end, I have no reason to believe that sentiment has changed.

“Red Hat has only recently been able to see some of the terms of the original Microsoft/Novell deal, due to the belated and redacted SEC filings that were made. Based on what we have seen, the deal is not interesting to us. Red Hat continues to believe that open source and the innovation it represents should not be subject to an unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency.”

–jeremy

More Microsoft Patent Dealings

So, Linspire is the latest company to sign a patent deal with Microsoft. They’ve even managed to wrangle some additional items they claim are not in the other deals:

Linspire Inc. has announced an agreement to license voice-enabled instant messaging, Windows Media 10 CODECs, and TrueType font technologies from Microsoft for its Linux distribution. Additionally, Microsoft will offer protection to Linspire customers against possible violations of Microsoft patents by Linux.

In his June 14 weekly Linspire Letter, Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony stated, “This agreement will offer several advantages to Linspire Linux users not found anywhere else, such as Windows Media 10 support, genuine Microsoft TrueType fonts, Microsoft patent coverage, improved interoperability with Microsoft Windows computers, and so on.”

Linspire has always been more willing than most to include proprietary codecs and drivers, so this is no surprise. While I may not agree with their stance, I do think they are legitimately trying to improve the desktop Linux experience, and you can’t fault them for that (or at least I don’t). I do find it odd that they’d choose to have a demonstrably inferior product in Live Search be the default, but I digress. What’s troubling once again is the inclusion of dubious patent protection. Now, Linspire (nee Lindows) and Microsoft have a tumultuous history. In that vein, this post has some interesting tidbits.

We now have three Linux distributions wrapped up in this patent debate. It was speculated that Mandriva may be next. Based on the profile of the latest two companies, it seemed a logical guess if you had to make one. It’s good to see that they have gone on the record saying that it’s not going to happen. Red Hat already rejected the idea and Mark made his feelings very clear in this post:

There’s a rumour circulating that Ubuntu is in discussions with Microsoft aimed at an agreement along the lines they have concluded recently with Linspire, Xandros, Novell etc. Unfortunately, some speculation in the media (thoroughly and elegantly debunked in the blogosphere but not before the damage was done) posited that “Ubuntu might be next”.

For the record, let me state my position, and I think this is also roughly the position of Canonical and the Ubuntu Community Council though I haven’t caucused with the CC on this specifically.

We have declined to discuss any agreement with Microsoft under the threat of unspecified patent infringements.

Allegations of “infringement of unspecified patents” carry no weight whatsoever. We don’t think they have any legal merit, and they are no incentive for us to work with Microsoft on any of the wonderful things we could do together. A promise by Microsoft not to sue for infringement of unspecified patents has no value at all and is not worth paying for. It does not protect users from the real risk of a patent suit from a pure-IP-holder (Microsoft itself is regularly found to violate such patents and regularly settles such suits). People who pay protection money for that promise are likely living in a false sense of security.

I welcome Microsoft’s stated commitment to interoperability between Linux and the Windows world – and believe Ubuntu will benefit fully from any investment made in that regard by Microsoft and its new partners, as that code will no doubt be free software and will no doubt be included in Ubuntu.

He also goes on to state why he dislikes OOXML.

With regard to open standards on document formats, I have no confidence in Microsoft’s OpenXML specification to deliver a vibrant, competitive and healthy market of multiple implementations. I don’t believe that the specifications are good enough, nor that Microsoft will hold itself to the specification when it does not suit the company to do so. There is currently one implementation of the specification, and as far as I’m aware, Microsoft hasn’t even certified that their own Office12 completely implements OpenXML, or that OpenXML completely defines Office12’s behavior. The Open Document Format (ODF) specification is a much better, much cleaner and widely implemented specification that is already a global standard. I would invite Microsoft to participate in the OASIS Open Document Format working group, and to ensure that the existing import and export filters for Office12 to Open Document Format are improved and available as a standard option. Microsoft is already, I think, a member of OASIS. This would be a far more constructive open standard approach than OpenXML, which is merely a vague codification of current practice by one vendor.

The speculation as to what Microsoft’s end goals are with this remain all over the map. I maintain they themselves may not even be sure yet. One might think they are trying to fracture the Linux market – a sort of divide and conquer. As long as Ubuntu and Red Hat remain on the other side, however, that plan isn’t going to work. The only real loser in that scenario would potentially be Novell. It’s clear that smaller, desktop oriented companies are their current sweet spot, which says a lot in my opinion. Not sure where this is all going, but it’s getting more interesting to watch by the day. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

Xandros signs up with Microsoft

It looks like Xandros has signed a deal similar to the recent Microsoft Novell one. From the press release:

Today Microsoft Corp (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Linux platform provider Xandros Inc announced a broad collaboration agreement based on a set of technical, business, marketing and intellectual property commitments. These commitments provide customers with enhanced interoperability, more effective systems management solutions, and intellectual property assurances, all of which extend a bridge between open source and commercial software and deliver customers real value in mixed systems environments.

For Xandros, the agreement marks a major milestone in its vision of delivering end-to-end Linux desktop and server solutions as well as Windows(R) and Linux cross-platform management and interoperability tools.

“Companies today are running a mixture of Linux and Windows systems,” said Andreas Typaldos, chief executive officer of Xandros. “Cross-platform data centres are a reality. To meet evolving customer needs, vendors need to recognise the value of sharing intellectual property, developing more interoperable solutions, and providing management tools that are familiar and easy to use.”

— Intellectual property assurance. Through the agreement, Microsoft will
make available patent covenants for Xandros customers. These covenants
will provide customers with confidence that the Xandros technologies
they use and deploy in their environments are compliant with
Microsoft’s intellectual property. By putting a framework in place to
share intellectual property, Xandros and Microsoft can speed the
development of interoperable solutions.

— Microsoft sales and marketing support. The companies are committing to
a set of sales and marketing efforts to promote the output of their
technical efforts. As part of this effort, Microsoft will now endorse
Xandros Server and Desktop as a preferred Linux distribution due to
Xandros’ efforts to establish rich interoperability and deliver IP
assurance to its customers. Also, a specialised team of Microsoft
staff will be trained on the value propositions of this collaboration
to customers and channel partners. Xandros will also become a member
of the Microsoft Interop Vendor Alliance.

It should be interesting to see how the community responds to the one. Xandros hasn’t exactly been able to get much traction in the marketplace and this may very well have just been a move to stay alive. Details are a bit light at the moment, but I’d guess we’ll be seeing more very soon. Stay tuned.

–jeremy

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