Amazon.com has joined a host of other companies using Linux to pay Microsoft as part of a patent cross-licensing arrangement.
Not surprisingly, the wording of the February 22 announcement by Microsoft regarding its latest IP licensing deal doesn't claim Amazon is infringing (or even potentially infringing) on any Microsoft patents. Microsoft execs learned their lesson about doing that after CEO Steve Ballmer's remarks contradicted claims by Novell execs in a patent-licensing arrangement a few years ago. -- right around the time Microsoft officials said free and open-source software violated 235 Microsoft patents.
But like other similar patent agreements Microsoft has struck with companies ranging from TomTom and Melco/Buffalo, to Samsung and Fuji Xerox, the deal with Amazon does cover open-source and Linux-based technologies -- including the Kindle e-reader, which runs Linux.
I asked Microsoft a few additional questions about the agreement and received the following responses from a corporate spokesperson:
MJF: Microsoft has said it doesn’t plan to enter the eReader market. Does this agreement signal a change in that strategy? Or is this more of a case where Amazon is paying for patent protection like Buffalo and TomTom did?
Microsoft: Patent cross-licensing agreements, like this one we have forged with Amazon, are an important means for recognizing and respecting IP rights and make it possible for us to be more creative and collaborative with others in the industry, and to bring new and compelling products to market faster.
MJF: Is Microsoft saying which patents from Microsoft that Amazon has access to?
Microsoft: Specific terms of the agreement are confidential.
MJF: Amazon is paying Microsoft, but is Microsoft also paying Amazon?
Microsoft: Specific terms of the agreement are confidential. However, Amazon will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of money under the agreement.
According to Microsoft's release, the Redmondians have entered into "more than 600 licensing agreements" for various pieces of its IP. The release cites not only companies who've signed agreements to head off potential patent-infringement cases, but also those who've done other cross-licensing deals, like Apple, HP and Nikon Corp.
Amazon recently introduced a version of its Kindle readersoftware for Windows. But this new agreement doesn't seem related to that project, from what I can tell.
Update (via TechFlash's Todd Bishop): Amazon isn't issuing its own press release, nor is it commenting on Microsoft's announcement about the deal. Interesting.