Microsoft said Thursday that it has reached a deal to provide French automaker Renault with service and support for a version of the Linux operating system distributed by Novell.
Under the arrangement, Microsoft will provide Renault with 1,000 "certificates" for Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise server product. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Microsoft will also help Renault integrate its Linux-based computers with those that run the Windows operating system.
The deal also includes a controversial "IP assurance" provision under which Microsoft pledges not to sue customers who use Linux distributed by its partner Novell.
Microsoft has long claimed that Linux and other open source software programs violate its patents. In 2006, the company struck a deal with Novell under which it indemnified Novell Linux users from any legal claims. In return, Microsoft gained the right to resell certificates for Novell's SUSE Linux at a markup.
Last year, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer implied that users of Linux distributions from vendors other than those with which it has patent deals -- the list also includes Xandros and Linspire -- could be hearing from the company. "We've spent a lot of money licensing patents," Ballmer said.
Ballmer said Microsoft would like to create "an intellectual property framework" that bridges the commercial software and open source worlds so that users know where they stand with regard to using certain software programs.
He may not get much cooperation from the open source community, however. Linux advocates insist that the OS does not step on Microsoft's intellectual property and have publicly challenged the company to specify exactly which patents it believes have been violated.