Microsoft will provide sales support for Novell's Suse Linux and protect Suse users against patent infringement claims from Microsoft, according to the terms of a broad agreement unveiled Thursday by the two companies, formerly bitter rivals.
Microsoft and Novell agreed to work on virtualization technology to simplify the process of running Linux on a Windows machine and vice versa. In addition, Microsoft agreed to hand out coupons for maintenance and upgrades of Suse Linux. Novell would be responsible for the actual sale.
Chief executives Steve Ballmer of Microsoft and Ron Hovsepian of Novell announced the deal at a San Francisco news conference, held shortly after the deal closed.
Microsoft promised not to sue Novell for patent infringement stemming from code currently in Suse Linux, or future technology codeveloped by the companies or contributed by third-party developers.
The deal is designed to alleviate business concerns that Microsoft could one day claim Linux contains patent-violating technology. But the "patent covenant" doesn't protect all Linux users, only Suse users. "Novell is acting as a proxy for its customers, and only its customers," Ballmer said. "If they [businesses] want patent peace and interoperability, then they'll have to look to Suse Linux."