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Microsoft, Novell Take Their Partnership To The Streets

Customers are more interested in interoperability and virtualization than patent protection and intellectual property issues, despite the stir Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is creating in the open source community, says Novell.

Microsoft and Novell have already contacted more than 100 potential customers in the United States and Europe to sell interoperability deals between SuSE Linux and Windows, according to Susan Heystee, Novell's newly appointed head of the controversial partnership.

Novell said Thursday it chose Heystee to oversee the partnership as part of her new position as vice president and general manager for global strategic partners. Microsoft and Novell announced the partnership this month, saying they would work together on providing virtualization technology to run Windows and Linux on the same machine, and data center interoperability between the two platforms.

Heystee said in an interview that joint sales teams have visited more than 100 companies on both sides of the Atlantic, and has found the reception "extremely positive."

"Our focus has been about where we're going with the combined offering, and working with them on specific proposals," she said.

Since the companies announced the deal, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer sparked considerable controversy by saying Linux contains Microsoft intellectual property, and Novell's SuSE is the only Linux distribution with patent protection from Microsoft.

But potential customers are more interested in interoperability and virtualization than they are in patent protection and intellectual property issues, despite the stir Ballmer is creating in the open source community, Heystee said.

"It doesn't tend to be at the top of the list in terms of their needs," she said. "But its definitely one of the aspects that they look at in terms of the partnership."

The companies do not have any joint technology or a product roadmap, Heystee said. "That's still being defined."

Heystee acknowledged that it might seem awkward for two rivals to sell interoperability, while also trying to sell their own platforms. But in the end, it will be up to the customer as to which product wins. "They're going to make the choice on how they leverage the platforms," Heystee said, adding that she expects most companies to use both.

As VP of strategic partners, Heystee also oversees Novell's relationships with IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

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