Linspire follows Xandros with a Microsoft patent agreement deal

* Another Linux company now running under Microsoft's patent protection umbrella

Well, that didn't take long.

Count Linspire as another Linux company running under Microsoft's patent protection umbrella. Linspire's deal with Microsoft comes a week after independent Linux distributor Xandros announced it had reached a similar deal with the software giant.

Like the Novell and Xandros deals, Linspire's agreement with Microsoft protects Linspire Linux customers from any future patent increment litigation. The deal goes further on the technical front, with several integrations of the two company's technologies — mostly Microsoft code being pushed onto Lindows.

Linspire will license Microsoft's RT audio codec, and will support Windows Media Player 10 in a future release. Also, Widows Live search will become the default Web search tool on the Lindows Linux desktop. The companies have also agreed to develop interoperability code for Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org documents. In addition, Linspire will work to make the open source Pidgin (formerly GAIM) instant messaging client work with Windows Live Messenger.

The pressure to make a deal with Microsoft comes from the company's claims that Linux and other open source packages such as OpenOffice, violate 235 patents held by the company. Microsoft is not revealing to the public what specific lines of code were stolen by Linux or other software packages; but those who agree to pay Microsoft for the licensing of this code get to see.

What's interesting about the Linspire announcement are the pledges to make open source tools such as OpenOffice and Pidgin more interoperable with Microsoft. These packages are free, open source code, which allows anyone to make changes or alterations to the software. But the two respective projects are maintained by groups outside of Linspire. (Like many Linux desktop distributors, Linspire includes the free apps with its software bundle). Breaking open Pidgin or OpenOffice seems to open up an array of issues. Will this produce non-compatible forks of these packages?

Linspire has a history of making deals with Microsoft. Linspire was formerly known as Lindows — a clear nose-thumbing at Microsoft — until Microsoft took the company to court several years ago to change the name. It lost the case, but ended up investing $20 million in the company, with the stipulation that it change its name. The terms of Linspire's deal with Microsoft were not announced.

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