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Public displays of affection are frowned on in modern manners books - but try telling that to new best friends Sun Microsystems and Microsoft. The canoodling twosome can't keep their hands off each other, and they can't stop telling us how delighted they are to be a couple, either.

"Nine months ago we were slashing each other's tires, but now we're fixing each other's flats," said Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos. "And soon we'll be racing down the road!"

Somewhere in heaven, an angel died.

The two put on a joint conference call today to update an anxious world on their historic settlement. In April, the two adversaries agreed to set aside their differences, and gang up on Red Hat instead.

Fifteen top-level executive meetings have followed - characteristically Microsoft measures productivity in numbers of meetings held - with Papadopoulos drawing the short straw, and being assigned the task of working out the details with Chairman Bill himself.

Sun pronounced itself pleased with the "Designed For Windows" accreditation it can use on its workstations and storage kit. (Another angel dying there, we think). The two have established a competency center in Redmond "full of shiny Sun equipment", and have worked on a series of W3C WS-* web services protocols including addressing and metadata exchange. The couple have discovered they share a mutual love of 64 bit computing, they told us, and great things lie in store for this ten year relationship. Next up, they'll try and smooth out browser authentication and single sign-on, and eventually they'll plan great systems together.

"We're looking at things like eventing - how to build and connect asynchronous systems," said Papadopoulos.

Sun clearly stands to gain more than Microsoft from the relationship, as its efforts to build or badger a satisfactory level of interoperability have failed in the past, and ultimately floundered in the courts. But the most important clue to their relationship was hidden in the fanfare.

"We've discovered the two companies are more similar than different, especially on the value of intellectual property," said Papadopoulos. Sun's decision to license Microsoft protocols allows it to boast the best Windows interoperability in the business, leaving free software developers high and dry. ®

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