Leaders of Microsoft's strategy to make its products more interoperable with competitive technologies said the company still hopes to strike a Linux pact with Red Hat similar to the partnerships it's forged with Linux vendors Novell, Xandros, and Linspire.
"We'd love to do the same deal with Red Hat," said Tom Robertson, general manager of corporate interoperability and standards at Microsoft in an interview Friday. "We're always open to talking with them."
That sentiment so far has not been the same on Red Hat's end, as the company has said it's not interested in a deal. Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Day said Friday that is still the case.
"We continue to believe that open source and the innovation it represents should not be subject to an unsubstantiated tax that lacks transparency," she said in an e-mail.
Still, some wonder -- as Microsoft lines up the other Linux ducks in a neat little row -- if Red Hat might be next, and rumors suggest a pact might be imminent. Microsoft's latest Linux deal came Thursday in an intellectual property-sharing and interoperability agreement with Linspire that would shield the company's customers from Microsoft patent-infringement claims. The deal follows one struck by Microsoft and Linux distributor Xandros last week, as well as a high-profile and financially significant deal with Novell late last year.
Microsoft has said it is seeking these partnerships for a couple of reasons. The one Robertson is most interested in is interoperability, as he -- along with Jean Paoli, general manager, interoperability and XML architecture -- is in charge of Microsoft's 18-month company-wide strategy in this area.
Robertson said Microsoft customers have demanded the company address interoperability issues with other companies' software, including open source, and that IP (intellectual property) in those products is a concern for them. "If you look across the industry, you see companies working together to address IP on behalf of their customer base," he said.
Microsoft has publicly said that Linux and other open source software violates 235 of the company's patents. But rather than seek litigation as a way to settle these IP claims, Microsoft is striking these individual deals, Robertson said. However, much has been made of the fact that the company has not publicly disclosed any of the patents it claims open source software is violating.
Robertson would not address why Microsoft will not show its patents and stopped short of claiming the deals with Novell, Linspire, and Xandros prove those companies are indeed violating Microsoft IP. None of the Linux companies will say so, either, and Novell in fact has vehemently denied infringement. This discrepancy is one reason some feel Red Hat will never sign up for an indemnification deal with Microsoft.