Speculating that relations could be warming between the two companies, News.com is reporting that Microsoft and Red Hat chief executives Steve Ballmer and Matthew Szulik dined together at McCormick and Schmick's restaurant in New York in March. Sources close to the story are saying that the dinner was arranged at Microsoft's request and the potential warming hypothesis comes on the heels of statements by Bill Gates that Microsoft wants to meet with open source companies.
Quite frankly, it's hard to imagine the two companies being friendly to each other. As far as I can tell, relations between IBM and Microsoft are at an all time low and Red Hat is clearly one of the lynchpins in IBM's plans to dismember the Redmond-based company. Meanwhile, Microsoft is more closely allied with Red Hat's arch-enemy Sun. Last year, Microsoft and Sun inked a watershed agreement that not only put an end to the hostilities between the two companies, but that became the jump off point for several joint initiatives (most of which have yet to bear any significant fruit). Later in 2004, the details of a component of that detente -- a "stand-still" agreement between Sun and Microsoft -- revealed legal arrangements that eliminated the possibility of an intellectual property infringement lawsuit by Microsoft against users or distributors of Sun StarOffice, but that paved the way for such a lawsuit against distributors of OpenOffice such as Red Hat. If OpenOffice infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property and Microsoft decides to seek back pay on all of the copies of OpenOffice that were distributed by Red Hat, the resulting judgement could be devastating to Red Hat. While there was no word on whether Red Hat's potential infringement on Microsoft's intellectual property was a part of the discussion, I can't imagine that IP didn't come up.