Microsoft, Novell stand together on Linux

A partnership announced last week will promote interoperability between Microsoft’s Windows and Novell’s SUSE Linux operating systems.

The companies plan to work together on virtualization, management and document compatibility, said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer. The pair will also will collaborate on sales and marketing of their operating systems.

“We're going to make clear to the market that interoperability is a good thing,” Ballmer said. Under the partnership agreement, developers of open-source SUSE Linux applications won't need to worry about Microsoft coming after them for intellectual property rights infringement.

Ron Hovsepian Novell’s president and CEO, initiated the partnership.

The relationship between the companies will open up new procurement opportunities, said Bill Schrier, chief technology officer for the city of Seattle.

Schrier said the city's Web portal is based on Microsoft's .NET framework. The city often needs specialized software for functions such as paying bills and processing applications for business licenses. Now the office will have access to more applications that work with .NET.

“With this agreement, we'll be able to get the other half of those Web applications, the ones that run on Linux, because Linux will also run on our Web site,” Schrier said. “We'll have twice as many applications for the citizens and constituents of Seattle.”

Microsoft and Novell officials said dealing with intellectual property rights and giving customers peace of mind were among the major reasons they entered into the business relationship.

“Customers told us that they wanted us to find a way to address the patent issues directly so they wouldn't have to figure out how to deal with these things," said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. “By fashioning this covenant, we've figured out how to do that."

However, both companies stressed that despite the partnership, they will continue to compete against each other for contracts and services.

"We're still competitors -- in a good way," Ballmer said.

The new partnership apparently doesn't affect conflicts that predate the agreement. For example, Novell has a two-year-old antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft that claims the software giant destroyed Novell's WordPerfect business.

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