Microsoft added a third Linux distributor to its open source patent protection program today when they and Linspire announced a licensing and technical collaboration agreement. There are some novel aspects to the agreement, compared with the prior ones with Novell and Xandros, which reflect Linspire’s business model of shipping the Debian (soon Ubuntu) Linux distribution with proprietary add-ons that make it more acceptable for consumer desktop use.
First, and fairly conventionally, Microsoft and Linspire will jointly work on developing and distributing office document translators that “allow OpenOffice and Microsoft Office users to better share documents.”
Second, and more interestingly, “Linspire will select the Live Search service of Windows Live as the Linspire 5.0 default Web search engine.” Heck, I guess you grab Web search eyeballs wherever you can find them.
Then comes the Linspire licensing of Microsoft technologies:
Linspire customers only get the above when they buy a special patent SKU. This is typical Linspire and and previous inclusions of proprietary software have drawn criticism from free software purists like Richard Stallman.
Last, but not least there is the patent Kool-Aid:
Through the agreement, Microsoft and Linspire have developed a framework to provide patent covenants for Linspire customers. The patent covenants provide customers with confidence that the Linspire technologies they use come with rights to relevant Microsoft patents.
Whatever those are and however irrelevant they might actually be. This covenant is apparently also an extra charge option for Linspire customers. Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony says the agreement is really business as usual for Linspire and he doesn’t mind taking the hits from the open source community. Probably not, as he has been taking those hits already.
Finally, notice that unlike the Novell and Xandros agreements, Microsoft will not be promoting the Linspire Linux distribution. Presumably an erstwhile desktop competitor hits a little too close to home.