InfoWorld: There has been a lot of criticism and discontent with that agreement in the open source community. One of the expressions I heard was it was a tax on Linux by Microsoft. How do you respond to that?
Gutierrez: Well, it is hard to envision that an agreement in which two industry leaders agree to set their differences aside and collaborate could be viewed as divisive, but be that as it may, it's been almost two years to the day since we signed that agreement and I think the world has significantly changed since then. In part, because of that and other collaborations that Microsoft has undertaken, but I think fundamentally because the market realities continue to change. For example, it is harder and harder to continue to define the world of software as a world divided between open source companies and proprietary companies. The truth is that today we're all mixed source companies. Every company that traditionally comes from an open source background has over time moved to the middle after realizing that in addition to the open source foundation, they also need proprietary offerings that will differentiate their services from others and therefore will enable them to build a viable business.
InfoWorld: Who are you referring to there? Novell?
Gutierrez: No, I'm referring to all of them. If you look at Red Hat, it certainly has a very credible Linux offering. At the same time, they admittedly are counting on JBoss and a number of other technologies in order to build a differentiating value proposition and each and every one of them would be that. So at the same time, companies that you could have associated traditionally with a pure proprietary software development model, including Microsoft, you see them today cooperating with open source development projects, even shipping open source code as part of their breadth of their offerings. Over time this distinction, which was mostly an ideological and very emotional distinction, the reality of business is causing all companies to converge to the point where, as I said, in a few years this distinction will be without meaning and we will all be mixed source companies.
InfoWorld: It was a couple of years ago that Steve Ballmer said Linux infringed on Microsoft patents. Has Microsoft ever divulged those patents and does it plan to do that?
Gutierrez: We start by saying that the fact that certain products might infringe on Microsoft patents is not really that interesting. Any company that has a significant portfolio would be able to say that about many products, whether they're open source or proprietary. What is significant here is that these are issues that can and are being solved through the mechanism of licensing. That is when my work and the work of the IP licensing team at Microsoft comes in, by turning those situations into potential collaborations that really answer what customers want. Customers don't want to have to deal with these issues of interoperability and IP assurance concerns. They want their vendors to come together and solve it and that is the solution that we feel has worked and will continue to work in the future.
InfoWorld: So you're not going to tell me what those patents were today?
Gutierrez: No, I will say this: Microsoft publishes every patent that Microsoft gets issued and we have had deeper, detailed discussions in the context of private licensing conversations, which by the way is the practice that every technology company follows. So to answer your question, yes, we have divulged them. We have talked about them with a number of companies that have shown interest in having a good faith licensing discussion with Microsoft.