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Microsoft-Sun Pact Changes Little

Microsoft, for its part, was staring down the barrel of several Sun lawsuits, and legal analysts doubted the Redmond giant could win them all. Both the specter of litigation and Microsoft's high level of liquid assets troubled investors; the Sun agreements will end several lawsuits and put some of Microsoft's cash to good use. In the short term, the Microsoft-Sun pact is good news for IT--Sun gets a much-needed cash infusion, and Microsoft eliminates some potentially onerous legal issues.

Long term, the arrangements are an attempt to stave off Linux's growth, which has been eating into both vendors' market share. But while the new alliance won't hurt Microsoft or Sun, it probably won't help them much long term, either. True, they'll stop wasting resources on each other, letting them devote more time to pushing their respective products over open-source equivalents. But it will still be difficult to convince customers that an expensive proprietary solution is better than a free one that is "good enough."

Sooner or later, Microsoft and Sun will have to change their business models to live in an open-source world. Meanwhile, customers should stay the course. Contrary to the bevy of press releases that are bound to appear in the coming months, the Microsoft-Sun pact changes little for end users, other than making the future of two big vendors less worrisome.