Under the partnership announced in November, Microsoft said it would offer corporate customers a chance to license its Windows operating system as part of a package that includes maintenance and support for Novell's Suse Linux platform.
On Sunday, Microsoft and Novell said Dell has agreed to buy Suse Linux Enterprise Server certificates from Microsoft and that the computer maker will set up a services and marketing program aimed at getting users of open-source platforms to switch to the new Suse Linux offering.
"Dell is the first major systems provider to align with Microsoft and Novell in this collaboration, and we intend to lead in this space," Rick Becker, a vice president in Dell's product group, said in a statement.
The pact between Microsoft and Novell is primarily aimed at the growing number of major companies and government agencies that rely on both Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's patent-protected Windows and Novell's open-source Linux platform to run their computers.
To encourage more companies to choose Novell's open-source platform, Microsoft has promised not to file patent-rights lawsuits over any of its technology that's blended with Suse Linux.
The concession is meant to address concerns of corporate users who have been reluctant to use Linux because they feared Microsoft might retaliate with patent-infringement claims.
"Dell's embrace of the Novell-Microsoft agreement reflects a growing market reality: The two platforms of the future are Linux and Windows, and customers want them to work better together," said Susan Heystee, vice president and general manager of global strategic alliances at Novell.
Because it's available for free, Novell primarily relies on fees for customer support to make money off its Linux software. By comparison, Microsoft makes most of its money from sales of its proprietary software, but it has come under increasing pressure to loosen up.
Microsoft said it has issued more than 40,000 Suse Linux Enterprise Server certificates to companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and Credit Suisse since it formed its pact with Novell.