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Microsoft and Novell to push SuSE Linux sales in China

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Microsoft and Novell yesterday announced plans to extend their interoperability alliance by tapping into the increasingly lucrative Chinese market.

The software companies said in a joint statement that they were placing "particular emphasis" on the People's Republic to jointly market and sell Novell's SuSE Linux distribution in that country.

Under the extended agreement, Microsoft will buy certificates for SuSE Linux service and support from Novell and resell them to its Chinese customers.

Microsoft, which kicked off its five-year partnership with Novell in November 2006, said its aim was to make its Windows operating system more interoperable with Linux.

The firms are marketing "supported Linux" in which they collect a fee from software systems that mingle open source programs with Microsoft products including Vista and Office.

"We recognise that our customers want to use Microsoft products in heterogeneous environments, and therefore we are pleased to offer this option to meet customer needs in one of the leading global markets," said Ya-Qin Zang, chairman of Microsoft China.

But it's also a strategic move that demonstrates Microsoft's desire to have its cake and eat it too by extending an agreement with its rival that is, in essence, a patent protection and cross-licensing deal with Novell for its technologies.

The alliance will undoubtedly be slammed by many open source fanciers who will view the deal as Microsoft's latest effort to grab a fee from Linux customers.

It's also worth noting that less than a year ago Microsoft's top lawyer Brad Smith made plenty of threatening allegations about how open source software violates exactly 235 entries in the firm's vast patent portfolio.

Of that total, Microsoft singled out the Linux kernel with claims that it violated 42 of its patents.

Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer told developers in London last October that anyone using open source software from Red Hat, which doesn't have a cross-licensing love-in deal with Redmond, effectively owed him money.

"People who use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation eventually to compensate us," said Ballmer.

Last week Red Hat said it had abandoned plans to develop a consumer desktop product for the forseeable future because it cannot compete with the might of Microsoft in that market. ®

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