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Microsoft, Novell To Sell Linux Licenses In China

The companies say they are trying to convert more users to supported SUSE Linux Enterprise.

Microsoft and Novell are extending their partnership around the Linux operating system to mainland China.

Under a deal disclosed Sunday, the two vendors said they would work jointly to market and sell Novell's SUSE Linux distribution in the People's Republic.

Mirroring the companies' partnership in the West, Microsoft will buy certificates for SUSE Linux service and support from Novell and resell them to its Chinese customers. Microsoft and Novell also said they plan to host a series of roundtable discussions with corporate chief information officers in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing to promote the program.

Microsoft and Novell, in a joint statement, said they are focused on "converting unsupported Linux users to supported SUSE Linux Enterprise."

Microsoft said the partnership has already yielded customers in China. The People's Insurance Company of China Group, the Dairy Farm Company, and Dawning Information Industry have all agreed to purchase certificates for three years of SUSE Linux service and support.

Microsoft first announced its partnership with Novell in 2006. The companies say their aim is to make Windows and Linux more interoperable.

Critics, however, charge that the alliance's main purpose is to allow Microsoft to collect a toll from users of Linux, which is a free, open source operating system that competes with Windows in some markets.

Microsoft claims that Linux violates 42 of its patents. The certificates that the company sells with Novell carry a provision that indemnifies users from legal action as long as they stick with the SUSE Linux distribution.

Last year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer implied that his company might seek compensation from users of other Linux distributions, including Red Hat's.

"People [who] use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to eventually compensate us," said Ballmer.

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