"The nation had to choose between shame and war. We have chosen shame.We shall get the war as well."
- Winston Churchill, in reply to BritishPrime Minister Chamberlain's "Peace in our time"
First of all the above must be put in perspective to the IBM-Novell Alliance under the Linux flag.
Understandably both Sun and Microsoft feel threatened by the formidable progress Novell has made integrating Linux, Gnome and OpenOffice.org with Novell's desktop services. Both Novell and IBM are shifting many of their own internal desktops over to Linux and Novell CEO has stated at Brainshare that almost all of the desktops used within Novell will be Linux based by early 2005.
It must irk both Sun and Microsoft that IBM and Novell are doing so using technology that both had a part in developing - in Sun's case GNOME and OpenOffice, and in Microsoft's case the Mono clone of .NET.
Aside from the monetary payoffs, the gains for Sun from the terms and conditions do not make any sense for Sun in the long term.
Windows Certification for Sun is the equivalent of hosting hostile enemy bases on your own territory. Sun, like Apple, relies on a separate identity from Microsoft to position itself in the server Market. Windows Certification for Sun hardware is an oxymoron, as it is possible to host Microsoft's OS on more stock standard and cheaper Dell, HP and whitebox hardware, without any significant loss of performance or quality. At least with Solaris and Linux, Sun is able to completely hack, recompile to tune the kernels and libraries to take advantage of any Sun specific hardware.
Interoperation between .NET and Java at the web-service/network layer is already covered by open web standards. Hosting Java code inside .NET's CLR and interfacing to the .NET framework introduces a whole heap of issues which is going to further stuff up Java's "write-once" goals.
Patent cross licensing does not make any sense to either party since both hold enough patents that an exchange of patent lawsuits would be a case of mutually assured destruction.
Sun's agreement to Microsoft Communications Protocol Program represents a real sellout by Sun. Until now, the only major vendors to sign up to the protocol agreement have been Cisco and guess who, The SCO Group ( only after the "investment" by Microsoft ). Even the U.S. Justice Department expressed concern that Microsoft has not completely lived up to its agreement. Just as with the SCO Group, it appears Microsoft has effectively paid off Sun to accept this agreement.
Of the legal settlements, where Sun that states that "the agreements announced today satisfy the objectives it was pursuing in the EU actions pending against Microsoft", is the reason why the monetary payoff to Sun was so large. Sun was one of the companies that complained to the EU over Microsoft's licensing of CIFS information in a manner incompatible to SAMBA's GPL license.
When the EU Competition Commission initiated the latest investigation against Microsoft in 2001, they included the following in their press release
The Commission believes that Microsoft may have withheld from vendors of alternative server software key interoperability information that they need to enable their products to 'talk' with Microsoft's dominant PC and server software products. Microsoft may have done this through a combination of refusing to reveal the relevant technical information, and by engaging in a policy of discriminatory and selective disclosure on the basis of a "friend-enemy" scheme.
The last statement is very important, since the CIFS file and print services software that the protocol complaint was based on is the GPL'ed SAMBA. I don't believe that without Sun's outright acceptance of the Microsoft Protocol agreement, Mario Monti, Competition Commissioner, would even consider any licensing from Microsoft for future required information that would be a licensed in a "friend-enemy" scheme incompatible with the same GPL.
The consumer, like Sun itself, have greatly benefited from the abundance of good quality open source developed and free licensed software, such as SAMBA.
Even Sun's new "Java" desktop environment is GPL'ed Linux and GNOME, the majority of which was developed outside of Sun. GNOME is free for Sun to bundle and sell. Even Sun's Solaris customers directly benefit from an open development enviroment where the infomation required to develop and the right to interoperate remains royalty free.
The press release of Sun does not give much hope that royalty free status will always remain the norm. http://www.sun.com/smi/Press/sunflash/2004-04/sunflash.20040402.3.html
I have publicly defended Sun's record of openess in many public forums. I have praised, encouraged and defended Sun's moves to futher open up the JCP to insure that contributers to the standard grant the right for open source project to implement the standards and for everyone to use the open source licensed implementations royalty free.
The Sun customers have directly benefited from this right to freely interoperate, but for how much longer?
Microsoft treaties with competitors in the long term rarely benefit anyone but Microsoft. Microsoft has screwed over IBM with OS/2, Corel with similar promises with .NET, and Sun itself by creating incompatibilities with their version of Java and not disclosing the fact to developers.
Read the terms and conditions of the current Microsoft Communications Protocol Program, and ask yourself is this deal better than the right to reverse engineer and use the interfaces royalty free? Most of the protocols listed have been derived from royalty free standards and enclosed by Microsoft's minor tweaks.
Sun and Sun's customers are being screwed, and because of the derived government granted intellectual monopoly of patents and copyright maintaining Microsoft's desktop monopoly, so are the rest of the consumers in the market being screwed.
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