The Sun Set(tles)

As I blogged before (here and here), Microsoft is dead serious about settling every lawsuit possible. Today?s settlement with Sun is perhaps the best example to date, as the two companies are bitter rivals and have locked horns during several knockdown legal scuffles.


The settlement solves several problems for Microsoft, while creating new opportunities. In a nutshell:


* Elimination of another potentially high-profile court case and the digging up of past behavior Microsoft is trying to forget and transcend. Consider the headlines the consumer case in Minnesota has been getting. Microsoft had good reasons to avoid going to going to court against Sun. Guilt or innocence isn?t the issue so much as perception.


* Rebuttal to last week?s negative antitrust ruling in Europe. Sun lobbied the European Union to open the investigation against Microsoft. Remember, that Sun makes server software that competes against Windows Server and must connect to Windows desktops. Now, Sun has access to broader Windows information and an agreement that would extend to other server software. My question: Will Sun now rally on Microsoft?s behalf in Europe?


* Validation of the server-licensing program. Twice, U.S. trustbusters have raised concerns the communications protocol licensing program has turned out to be an ineffective tool. Initially considered one of the most important areas of the U.S. antitrust settlement, the program has drawn little interest; some parties claim because Microsoft made some terms onerous. As part of the settlement, Sun has agreed to join the program, giving Microsoft a fairly high-profile licensee, as much because of the longstanding rivalry between the companies.


* Stronger foothold in the enterprise. Microsoft desperately wants to increase server software sales in the enterprise, where Unix operating systems, such as Sun?s Solaris, have longstanding footholds. The technology-sharing agreement increases the likelihood of better interoperability between Sun and Microsoft server software. According to Jupiter Research surveys, interoperability is the top priority of IT decision makers developing in-house applications. The largest businesses are most likely to be heterogeneous and so to run more than one type of server software, such as Solaris and Windows.


* Java lifeline to customers. The extension of the Java licensing agreement means that customers using software requiring Microsoft?s Java Virtual Machine won?t have to immediately rush and develop or buy a replacement. I think Microsoft would have benefited from a settlement where the company agreed to carry Sun?s JVM in Windows for, say, five years. Microsoft could have gained good public relations benefit from the move and better served its development partners and customers.


* Create new opportunities for .NET. By agreeing to work with Sun on Java--and visa versa on .NET--Microsoft has reach a potentially beneficial détente with its rival. Developers generally fall into three camps: Those developing using Java; those around .NET; and others doing both. The technology agreement could lead to better interoperability between the development/Web services platforms, which would be to Microsoft?s long-term advantage. If there is one thing Microsoft historically has done well is create development tools that are either easier to use or save time--or both. [via Microsoft Monitor]

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