Corel plan for MS .NET Linux revealed in SEC filing

And guess which one collects royalties from a Linux port?

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing detailing the Microsoft-Corel relationship has shed light on the "outstanding legal issues" that neither side wanted to talk about when the deal was struck last week.

The document also describes in some detail the staff resources Corel would commit to porting .NET services to Linux, although it stops short of making any such commitment. But you can probably draw your own conclusions.

As for the legal settlement, we learn that Corel was on the defensive rather than the offensive on this one. In section 4 of the filing, titled Covenant Not to Sue, Microsoft describes three of its own patents - 5,510,980, 5,287,514 and 5,437,036 - which cover work in the equation editor, table formatting and spell/grammar checking respectively. You can read the patents here, here and here.

At the time, we found ourselves musing that Corel's R&D projects for object-based middleware might have given it some leverage, but that turned out not to be the case. If it did have some unique intellectual property, it didn't patent it, and even if it had it's highly unlikely given its parlous financial position that it would want to get into a lengthy aggressive legal action.

Other details emerge from the filing.

Corel's promise to provide "material support" for .NET is defined as producing a.NETified version of each Corel product within six months of an upgrade to .NET. Which on the face of it, looks like Microsoft is binding Corel into its own release cycle.

Whether this commitment extends all the way to um, Bryce and Kai's Power Tools (KPT), we'll wait and see, but presumably they could be covered by a get-out clause: "Nothing in this Section shall preclude Corel from releasing versions of Products that do not include any support for the .NET Framework and/or the Windows Platform."

Corel also promises to use the Windows Media format and Microsoft's HTML Help format in its product brochures.

A Linux version of .NET services is mentioned by name for the first time. There's no binding commitment by either party to move .NET services to Linux - it's described as an "option" - but if it does fly, Corel promises to devote at least 20 coders and 10 testing staff to the project. Since it wouldn't really need to make such a commitment if neither side cared, that's a strong indication that Corel really will make sure .NET is supported on Linux to some extent.

But Microsoft would retain ownership of the Linux port, and reserves the right to make royalty requests to third parties from Corel's work.

Don't jump up and down folks - amidst much hullabaloo, Digital promised to devoted thousands of staff to make COM/OLE run on Unix in 1994. Several similar agreements followed... and we know what happened there. And in any case, .NET frameworks on Linux are not the same thing as MS Office on Linux at all. ®

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