Asian Linux Distributor Strikes Patent Covenant with Microsoft

Looks like Microsoft struck another patent deal with a Linux distribution, this time it’s Turbolinux. From the article:

In a deal that could lead to the creation of a unique cross-platform authentication system for heterogenous networks, Tokyo-based Linux distributor Turbolinux announced this morning, Japan time, it has reached an agreement with Microsoft for a cross-licensing of the two companies’ patent portfolios.

On the surface, what Turbolinux gets out of this is the interoperability information it needs to develop a single-sign-on service, enabling users to authenticate themselves once and transfer that security authority between operating systems. That’s how Microsoft is playing up the deal today, as it announces it will establish a permanent workshop at its Beijing office “to focus on testing and showcasing solutions for customers and partners,” as last night’s announcement put it.

But Turbolinux could have gotten that information through a simple, one-way license agreement. By making the deal two-way, Microsoft opens up the possibility for a kind of front-end portal: a way to make Windows the logon prompt for Linux.

While Turbolinux CEO Yano Koichi characterized the deal as a way to help his customers perceive Turbolinux as “the distribution that works best with their existing Microsoft investments,” it’s perhaps impossible not to consider the implications of Microsoft being able to leverage its joint discoveries – to which it would presumably be fully licensed – in devising a similar portal for Linspire and Novell distributions, and perhaps others.

Not too interesting overall, but you can see two trends here. The distros that Microsoft is able to entice with these patent deals are becoming smaller and smaller. Second, each progressive deal is getting less and less coverage. This deal happened days ago and I just heard about it now. The fact that Turbolinux is not huge in the US may have something to do with it, but I’d say it’s part of a larger trend.

–jeremy

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