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Inside Apple's New NYC Store

CMP Information Week
InformationWeek Daily - Tuesday, Dec 11, 2007

Editor's Note

Microsoft Tight-Lipped On Unix Ownership Question

For months, I've been trying to get Microsoft to answer a few questions about the Unix technologies in its intellectual property portfolio. Microsoft agreed to an interview, then backed out. So the question remains: How much Unix code does Microsoft have its hands on?

Microsoft's Unix roots go back more than 25 years. The company developed a version of Unix called Xenix in the 1980s that was widely used in its day. Separately, Microsoft acquired and distributed a software package called Windows Services for Unix that includes a Unix subsystem, hundreds of Unix utilities, and related tools. That software layer, redubbed the Subsystem for Unix-based Applications, comes included with Windows Vista Enterprise and Ultimate editions and will be bundled into the soon-to-ship Windows Server 2008. It lets you run Unix apps on Windows.

Just how much Unix code does Microsoft have in its possession, either through internal development, acquisition, or license agreements with other technology companies? And where is that code being used in Microsoft's product line or by other vendors? Microsoft won't discuss it.

Back in August, I asked Microsoft's PR agency if an interview could be arranged with Microsoft's normally talkative IP department. "I can help from the 'UNIX we own and license from others' standpoint," the PR person replied. "Still trying to find a Services for Unix contact for you, but we’ll get there."

But weeks passed, and that contact went quiet. In November, I tried again and was told that meetings were likely if I could wait until after Thanksgiving, but when the holiday passed, Microsoft had a change of heart. "They don’t think that they can find a spokesperson for you to talk with right now," I was told by a second PR contact. What changed? "All I know is that they said they can't."

Why is Microsoft reticent on questions about Unix?

Read some of my theories and post your own thoughts at the InformationWeek Microsoft blog.

John Foley

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