Microsoft inks Linspire: Is Red Hat next?

Microsoft inks Linspire: Is Red Hat next?

Summary: Microsoft inked its third Linux interoperability deal as the third version of General Public License nears the finish line. Will Red Hat fall in line soon?


Microsoft inked its third Linux interoperability deal as the third version of General Public License nears the finish line. Will Red Hat fall in line soon?

Microsoft today announced an interoperability deal with Linspire and the pact reads roughly like the one it has with Xandros. As we all know Microsoft is tied up with Novell in a pact that has been advantageous to both companies.

In fact, Microsoft's Novell deal (not to mention GPLv3) is spurring many of these deals. Windows and Linux will play nice in the enterprise and open source providers are wary of being locked out as Novell and Red Hat run off with the market.

Under its Microsoft pact, Linspire will be involved with document sharing formats. Linspire will also license technology to make its digital media and instant messaging apps compatible with Microsoft's. Linspire also makes Live Search its default search engine.

And the big deal for Linspire is patent protection. In a statement Microsoft said:

Through the agreement, Microsoft and Linspire have developed a framework to provide patent covenants for Linspire customers. The patent covenants provide customers with confidence that the Linspire technologies they use come with rights to relevant Microsoft patents.

Now there are two ways to read these Microsoft-Linux pacts. Duncan Riley at TechCrunch writes that Microsoft is creating an anybody-but-Red-Hat club to outflank the Linux bellwether.

If that's Microsoft's strategy against Red Hat it doesn't seem to be working. The consensus seems to be that Microsoft isn't denting Red Hat at all by inking pacts with lesser Linux providers. In a research note dated June 7, Jeffries analyst Katherine Egbert reports that Red Hat likely landed JP Morgan in the May quarter. Meanwhile, Novell customer wins at Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Bear Stearns were largely because Red Hat held the line on pricing, says Egbert.

An alternate theory--and one detailed in Egbert's note--is that Red Hat could do a deal with Microsoft. Egbert writes:

Several industry sources have indicated that Red Hat has opened talks with Microsoft re: patents. These talks are especially relevant in light of the recent, final release of GPLv3, which extends any two-party patent protection to all users of v3 licensed software (there is a grandfather clause that excludes the Novell-Microsoft agreement). Microsoft recently signed patent cross-license agreements with OSS provider Zimbra and with LG Electronics. While there has been only minor progress to date with Red Hat, we find the talks encouraging.

A Red Hat pact would be quite a coup for Microsoft and in theory could shelve future interoperability concerns for customers looking to mix and match Linux and Windows. The one major hang-up in talks will be virtualization technology. Don't hold your breath for a Microsoft-Red Hat partnership, but if it's going to happen it'll happen real soon.

Topics: Microsoft, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • Anybody notice a pattern here?

    Novell. Xandros, Linspire. What do all three companies have in common? They're based in the US, where they are subject to the patent system. Yet look in places like Europe, where software patents are laughed at, but interoperability deals are common. Microsoft would have us believe that companies cannot achieve interoperability without patents. But when you have such bogus patents like the 2004 patent on "program compiler"(Yes, Microsoft has that one), it can be easily argued that software patents have gone so out of control that they actually block innovation, instead of promoting it.

    Like Larry said, don't hold your breath for a Red Hat-MS patent deal. I'm going to make a prediction: Red Hat is smart enough to simply wait it out to the end of the month. After that they can sign a deal, but it will be a pure interoperability deal, sans patents, unlest MS wants its' patents to be free to use by the whole F/OSS community.
    Tony Agudo
  • Red Hat doesn't need to do a deal

    Really, Red Hat doesn't need to do a deal of this kind, they are now a sufficiently large company (with sufficiently large friends) that Microsoft patent threats aren't that scary.

    Novell has always been second to Red Hat, i'm assuming they took the deal as a market differentiator so that they could say that they offered something other than not being Red Hat.

    Nobody really cares what Xandros and Linspire do, i suspect we won't be hearing much from them in the coming years.

    Red Hat should no that they don't need to do a deal of this sort - Microsoft could have improved interoperability if they wanted to do that. I don't think we'll ever see an Office for Linux or anything. By taking a deal, as the largest Linux company, they would validate Microsofts patent claims.. (a quick google of microsoft patent stuff reveals they have an apple tree patent and a patent for sudo so i really wouldn't worry).
  • So Linspire has shot themselves in the foot

    Since the finial draft of GPL3 will prohibit companies who make these type of deals after March 28th from distributing GPL3 software, Linspire has just shot themselves in the foot.
    • Not prohibiting...

      GPLv3 doesn't prohibit companies who make these kinds of deals at all, but it extends the patent protection to all users of GPLv3 software. It's just a reinforcement of GPLv2's "Liberty or Death" patent clause:

      [i]Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. [b]To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all[/b].[/i]
      Tony Agudo
      • You missed the point

        Linspire doesn't have the legal authority to extend someone else's patent rights to everyone. That is why they would be prohibited from distributing GPL3 software.

        You can not grant more rights than you already have.

        I similar example, might be if you rented an apartment. Your lease might well have a no pets clause. Your lease might also have a clause allowing you to sublease. Despite that sublease clause, you could not legally engage in a sublease contract that allows pets in the apartment.

        • Then they'll be stuck in the mud

          Yes, you do have a good point there. I do recall now something in GPLv3 that says either you must extend the patent protection or stop distributing GPLv3 programs. But I was right on one thing: GPLv3 doesn't specifically prohibit patent deals from the perspective of the cross-licensor. Microsoft can make as many deals as they want, they're not affected, but the Linux distributors they deal with would have their hands tied. So Linux distributors would be wise not to engage in patent deals in order to keep their upstream development going. Or they could make a deal, and have to bear the cost of maintaining older software.
          Tony Agudo
          • And your point is ... ?

            It's not like that's a significant change from the status quo.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
  • That depends

    Is Red Hat management tired of North Carolina and looking to relocate (sans staff)? They might have better luck recruiting replacements in some parts of the world than others.
    Yagotta B. Kidding