It's been a while since Microsoft signed up any more Linux distro vendors to participate as patent-protection partners. But on October 22, the Redmondians announced they've added TurboLinux to the fold.
Microsoft's deal with TurboLinux -- like the interoperability/technology partnership arrangements it has cemented with Novell, Linspire and Xandros -- has several components. According to the Microsoft press release, the new Microsoft pact with TurboLinux, a Japanese vendor with a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific market, will cover the following areas:
- Single sign-on collaboration: Microsoft and Turbo will develop a "single sign-on solution, enabling customers to use one set of credentials to log on to Windows-based and Turbolinux devices."
- Protocol licensing: Turbo signed a Workgroup Server Protocol Program (WSPP) evaluation license in order to "evaluate additional technical collaboration opportunities on which to focus in the future."
- An R&D interop lab: This one to be housed in the same building as Microsoft's Beijing office.
- Windows Live marketing deal: TurboLinux desktops now feature Live Search. (Microsoft is billing this as an expansion of earlier desktop collaboration agreements between Microsoft and Turbo in the Open XML and WIndows Media Format areas.)
- The aforementioned patent-protection agreement: Microsoft's explanation states that "this agreement will provide intellectual property assurance for Turbolinux customers who purchase Turbolinux Server." The unstated part of the agreement: Turbo has likely licensed for an undisclosed sum some of the 235 Microsoft patents upon which the Redmond software vendor claims free and open-source software infringe.
I asked Microsoft whether the Turbo deal will include a loophole via which Microsoft will not indemnify TurboLinux customers who are running GNU General Public License (GPL) v3 software. Microsoft has added riders to its agreements with Novell and Linspire, claiming that it does not believe it is obligated to cover users running GPLv3 software. No word back yet. Also no word on whether Turbo is licensing any technologies or patents from Microsoft as part of the arrangement.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently called out Red Hat by name as a violator of Microsoft patents. Red Hat officials have said they have no intention of signing a patent-protection deal with Microsoft.