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Sun, Microsoft to flesh out pact

One-time bitter adversaries will detail extent of their collaborative work. Top priorities: Windows-Solaris and Web services interoperability.

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems on Wednesday plan to provide details about their six-month-old alliance for the first time.

The two companies have scheduled a teleconference to give a "progress report" on their landmark pact and define some of the parameters of the collaborative work, according to a Microsoft representative. Sun Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos and a Microsoft vice president plan to host the teleconference.

Announced in April, the wide-reaching deal called for the two long-time adversaries to settle their ongoing legal disputes and share technology in order to improve interoperability between their respective products. The deal involved payments of up to $1.95 billion to Sun.

As part of the deal, Sun withdrew from antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft. The two companies also created a patent-sharing arrangement, under which Sun and Microsoft pledged not to sue each other over patents. Despite the partnership, Sun and Microsoft executives vowed to continue competing aggressively.

When the deal was first announced, the companies provided few details on the nature of their technical collaboration, singling out network sign-on capabilities and Web services as two areas of potential work.

Since the deal's signing, the bulk of the collaboration has been on interoperability between Sun's Solaris operating system and Microsoft's Windows OS and on interoperability of Web services, said one Sun executive.

Closer technical ties between Solaris and Windows could blur the lines between their companies' respective products and provide, for example, a way to sign on to Windows and Solaris servers at the same time.

At a Sun event earlier this month, Sun CEO Scott McNealy said better-aligned authentication software will be a major benefit to Sun and Microsoft's joint customers.

"Bringing those two together in a circle-of-trust, compatible, single-sign-on kind of way will be a huge breakthrough," McNealy said.

The two companies have also started to collaborate on the development of Web services specifications, which define various aspects of software development and operations.

Last month, for example, Sun and Microsoft were among the co-authors of Web Services Management, a technical blueprint for keeping track of a range of networked devices--from consumer electronics to server computers. In the past, Sun and Microsoft did little joint Web services work and have been, in fact, on opposing sides of overlapping standards proposals.

In another indication of closer ties between the companies' Web services initiatives, Microsoft plans to host a series of Webcasts in December and January focusing on interoperability between Sun's Java and Microsoft's .Net development software.

The Webcasts, which will be hosted by a third party instead of Microsoft, will address ways that programmers can improve the integration between Java programs and Windows applications written with .Net tools.