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Microsoft and Amazon Ink 'Confidential' IP Deal

Microsoft issued an announcement on Monday stating that it had signed a "patent cross-license" deal with Amazon.com regarding Amazon's Kindle e-reader device and the "use of Linux-based servers."

Amazon will pay Microsoft an unspecified amount of money to settle intellectual property (IP) matters. The exact terms of the deal are considered to be confidential, but the announcement still put open source Linux in the cross hairs.

"Microsoft chose to focus on Linux and open source -- distinctly calling it out from 'proprietary software' and wasn't specific about any patents," noted Jim Zemlin, executive director of the nonprofit Linux Foundation, in his blog.

Zemlin discounted the deal as a "non-news event," saying that companies make such deals all of the time and don't issue press releases about them.

Microsoft's announcement stated that the Kindle electronic book-reading device relies on "both open source and Amazon's proprietary software components," plus it uses Amazon's Linux-based servers.

Microsoft elicited controversy among open source Linux advocates when it announced a deal with Novell in November of 2006 over IP used in Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server operating system. In May of 2007, Microsoft was accused of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt over Linux licensing after a Microsoft executive claimed that Linux violated 235 of Microsoft's patents.

Until this latest announcement with Amazon, Microsoft had been relatively quiet about alleged IP violations concerning Linux. Its last effort centered on TomTom's use of Microsoft's File Allocation Table technology in TomTom's Linux-based GPS devices. The case was settled in late March of 2009.

Not all of Microsoft's Linux deals have been about remedying IP violations. The company has tended to stress Linux interoperability with Windows as a means of meeting customer needs. To that end, Microsoft signed a deal in October of 2009 with Red Hat concerning Windows Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on each other's virtualization platforms. No licensing or compensation agreements were announced with that deal.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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