Are Sun and Microsoft forming an unholy alliance?

Are Sun and Microsoft forming an unholy alliance?

Summary: Rumours are abounding after details of a deal to shield StarOffice users from patent-infringement litigation explicitly left users out in the cold

TOPICS: Tech Industry

The Internet went all abuzz last week when a report by Todd Bishop of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer posited that Microsoft was keeping open its legal options against licensees of The software is a freely downloadable open-source productivity suite that constitutes a significant portion of Sun's commercially offered StarOffice. It also exemplifies the threat that the open-source movement poses to Microsoft.

Bishop reached his conclusion after an examination of a document called the Limited Patent Covenant and Stand-Still Agreement that was recently filed by Sun with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The document included previously undisclosed text from the legal agreements that codify Microsoft and Sun's recently forged partnership -- text that results in significant legal protection for customers of StarOffice, but that explicitly denies that same protection to users of

The revelation set off a wildfire of speculation and conspiracy theorising that burned through the Internet's news pages, blogs, and other public forums. For example, because open-source software lives under the threat of patent infringement licensees of it can be sued by any relevant patent holder at any time. Why, then, would Microsoft explicitly restate its right to sue licensees on the basis of patent infringement (as it did in the text of its agreement with Sun) when that right has pre-existed for Microsoft as well as others? To the extent that the larger agreement between Sun and Microsoft involved a significant amount of bargaining, why didn't Sun -- technically the steward of the open-source community -- request the same immunity for licensees of that licensees of StarOffice will get? Did Microsoft use some sort of leverage to make Sun agree not to intervene in the event it decides to sue OpenOffice.orglicensees? Did Sun capitulate, or are there undisclosed portions of the Microsoft-Sun pact still tucked beneath the pillows of Bill Gates and Scott McNealy?

Perhaps the quid pro quo is straightforward -- a mutually beneficial plot to force users to one of two legally safe, for-profit alternatives to Microsoft's Office or Sun's commercially licensed StarOffice?

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • There are a number of other smaller players in the Office Suite market which are more than adequate for very many users and small to medium businesses, most have moderate compatibility with M$ Office (meantime) and are very much cheaper.

    However, the lock-in to M$ starts in school and the US has no more desire to curb M$'s practices either.

    It will certainly take a cataclysm to reverse the (unhealthy) M$ monopoly. It definitely looks as though Sun's commercial interests and ambivalence towards Open Source will lead to the demise of Open Office and all the hard work put in by the community will benefit Sun and, in consequence, M$ too.