Sun and Microsoft promise to play nice

The $1.9 billion agreement between Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. promises interoperability between the company's product lines, company executives said today.

'We have entered into a pretty interesting relationship,' said Scott McNealy, chairman and chief executive officer of Sun, adding that the move was intended to address customers' demands that Microsoft and Sun products work together.

'We are both very well established with enterprise customers. In the server market, there is near-ubiquity of both platforms. It has become more and more clear that this relationship was required,' McNealy said.

'We're going to continue to compete. The thing I don't think you'll hear from either one of us is that anything is welded shut,' said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft.

The agreement, announced today, has two parts, one legal and the other concerning collaboration on future technologies. The legal agreement settles ongoing antitrust lawsuits between the two companies. Microsoft will pay Sun $1.6 billion to resolve patent and antitrust legal issues.

On the technical side, the companies agreed to license each other's technologies in order to have both sets of products work more easily with one another.

Microsoft will pay Sun $350 million to license some of its technologies for its own servers. Sun has also agreed to license some of Microsoft's technologies in the future.

Among the companies' technologies that will be affected by this collaboration are:
  • Java: Microsoft will continue to license the Java programming language for its own Java Virtual Machine. In the past few years, Microsoft has dropped JVM from some of its products in response to legal action from Sun.

  • Java Enterprise Edition and Microsoft's .Net: The companies have marketed these Web services platforms as competing architectures. The companies have promised to make products based on these architectures more interoperable.

  • Certifications: Microsoft will begin offering training certifications for Sun servers based on Xeon processors from Intel Corp. Microsoft also will offer certification for Sun servers running Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

  • Authentication products: The two companies promise to make Microsoft Active Directory and Sun Java System Identity Server, products for managing online identities, interoperable.

  • Windows operating system: Sun will license the communications protocols of Microsoft's Windows desktop OS for use in its own products.

About the Author

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

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