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April 4, 2004

Microsoft and Sun end hostilities, exchange technologies

Microsoft Corp and Sun Microsystems changed the software industry landscape last Friday by calling a truce in their bitterly fought corporate and legal war and agreeing a wide-ranging technology exchange.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft’s bullish chief executive Steve Ballmer joined wise-cracking Sun chief Scott McNealy at a hastily convened press event in San Francisco, California Friday pledging mutual collaboration, a technology licensing framework, interoperability of software, and product certification between the two companies.

Under a 10-year pact, Microsoft and Sun are also settling their outstanding legal differences, with Microsoft paying $1.6bn to close Sun’s private antitrust in California’s court system, which alleges Microsoft harmed Java by choking its distribution in Windows.

According to McNealy and Ballmer, the companies were forced together by customers. McNealy, who has described the Windows architecture and .NET as a welded-shut hair ball, said customers with Solaris, Java, Windows and .NET. told him: You need to stop the noise and interoperate and collaborate.

Ballmer added customers would benefit from interoperability: There’s noting, nothing, nothing that will other than delight customers, he said of deal.

McNealy said while there is a level of interoperability between Solaris and Windows, .NET and Java today, a formal framework is needed to enable a higher level of interoperability through the exchange of each other’s intellectual property (IP). Outstanding legal disputes also needed to be resolved, McNealy said.

The agreement it put in place includes a patent regime that ensures the companies don’t run afoul of each other in ways that is problematic, Ballmer said.

The Technical Collaboration Agreement provides both companies access to aspects of the others’ server-based technology, starting with the Windows Server and Widows client, but moving up to e-mail and database.

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Management of user identity, authentication and authorization is also a priority, with engineers from both companies working to ease exchange of information between Microsoft’s Active Directory and Sun’s Java System Identity Server.

Sun is joining Microsoft’s Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), to license desktop Windows communications protocols and has permitted Microsoft to continue supporting its implementation of Java. No agreement has been announced on whether Microsoft will license Sun’s Java Virtual Machine for Windows, though. Technical collaboration between Java and .NET is also promised.

Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates and Sun chief technology officer Greg Papadopoulos have been in telephone discussions during the past few weeks over deeper details of technical interoperability, Ballmer said. Microsoft, meanwhile will certify Sun’s Xeon servers and Sun’s Opteron-based servers.

Apparently McNealy is responsible for the deal, having initiated a dialogue during a telephone call to Ballmer last year. What followed was a golf game, more telephone calls and visits to each others’ campuses, including Bill Gates’ trip to Sun’s Silicon Valley campus during the company’s annual week-long summer vacation last year. The deal was finalized at 4am on Friday morning.

This article is based on material originally published by ComputerWire

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