Sun gets second Microsoft patent payment

Companies also are expected to soon release more details on their collaborative efforts. What's it like to negotiate with Bill Gates?

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
A detente between longtime rivals Microsoft and Sun Microsystems has resulted in more money changing hands and soon will produce more details on the companies' cooperative work.

Microsoft paid $54 million to extend a patent sharing agreement by one year, the server maker said on Thursday while reporting quarterly financial results. The payment was the first installment of a possible $450 million Sun could gain if Microsoft chooses to keep paying for nine more years.

In a dramatic turnaround, Sun and Microsoft announced the patent agreement a year ago, and also settled a long-running lawsuit over Sun's Java software. The companies also agreed to cooperate on making their products work better together.

So far, however, that collaboration hasn't had many externally visible results. On Thursday, Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy said a public update on the cooperation is in the works.

"We're planning on more updates in mid-May between the two companies," McNealy said in a conference call.

Sun has been silent about particulars of the collaboration beyond "identity" issues--easing headaches for people logging on to computer networks or administering groups of computer users--and sharing file formats for desktop software such as word processors.

But several new areas came to light last week in the blog of Sun Chief Technology Officer Greg Papadopoulos, the man who meets with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at least monthly to oversee the partnership.

The next priorities are "issues around systems management, virtualization and developer productivity for Web services," he wrote. Collaboration in Web services--technologies designed for next-generation business computing on the Internet--includes work on standards called WS-Addressing, WS-Management, WS-Eventing, WS-MetadataExchange.

"We are now to the stage of publicly committing products around these agreements," Papadopoulous wrote.

Working with Gates is "extraordinary," Papadopoulos added. "He's got two sides of his personality: a smart, genuine and very approachable geek and a hard-edged business guy. I truly enjoy our interactions when we are in geek mode. There is broad common ground on where things are going, what are problems with getting there, and why we need a relentless focus upon innovation. And let's just say I feel differently when his biz-mode kicks in."