Interoperability is the focus of Microsoft Novell partnership

Despite the fact that the Nov. 2 announcement of an agreement between Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., and Novell Inc. of Provo, Utah, on a new joint venture has sparked surprise for industry observers, many agree, at least initially, that the partnership will help those shops that run a mixture of Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems.

"Coming from our perspective, we see nothing but good things coming from it for our government clients," said John Weathersby, executive director of the Open Source Software Institute of Hattiesburg, Miss. "I hope this moves us all towards interoperability."

The two companies have announced they signed a partnership in order to facilitate ways of making Microsoft Windows and Linux more interoperable. The businesses will begin a joint research laboratory to carry out the work.

"For anyone who runs a mix of Microsoft Windows and Linux, especially [Novell's] SUSE Linux, this is good news. It will make it easier for customers to manage these [mixed] environments," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a conference call during the presentation.

The two companies will also work jointly on developing software to make the two OS'es play more nicely with one another, initially focusing on virtualization, asset management and document formats, according to Ballmer.

In the field of document sharing, for instance, Novell agreed to add Microsoft Office's Open XML format within the Open Office open-source office suite, available on the SUSE distribution. Currently, Open Office uses the Open Document Format, another Extensible Markup Language-based format.

"Open Office and other ODF-supporting implementations already support a variety of legacy or proprietary formats, and Office Open XML will be a welcome addition," said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, in a statement.

Microsoft has also agreed to not hold users liable for any patent infringements against Microsoft that may be inherent in the open-source portions of SUSE Linux Enterprise.

Although Weathersby voiced concern over the fact that the patent protection extended only to Novell's distribution and not to the open-source world in general, he expressed optimism about the arrangement overall.

"I think this represents one more step in the maturing of our marketplace," Weathersby said.

Joab Jackson is chief technology editor of Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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