After 10 years of correspondence, and tense relations over Software Assurance, Microsoft Corp. signed a long-term co-operation agreement with the IT club for large French businesses, CIGREF, on Thursday.

It’s a success for Jean-Pierre Corniou. Less than a week before giving up his seat as president of CIGREF, he signed a partnership agreement with Microsoft, formalizing the contact that the organization has had with the software developer for more than 10 years now. Even if he chooses not to stand for re-election, it’s a great way for Corniou to conclude his term in office. And although the partners see nothing but coincidence, his timing is good.

For Christophe Aulnette, chief executive officer (CEO) of Microsoft France, this agreement is also an excellent way to signal to the market a return to constructive relations with users, after more than 10 years of conflict. In the second quarter of 2001, the announcement of pricing for Software Assurance (Licensing 6.0) sparked off violent reactions from a number of customers, especially the members of CIGREF, and forced Microsoft to review its policy. The agreement is also a good way for the developer to assure its customers that it is listening, at a time when more and more of them are turning to open source alternatives.

A sign of the importance that Microsoft attaches to this partnership is that CEO Steve Ballmer, visiting Europe, had no hesitation in making a detour through Paris Thursday evening to sign the agreement at the same time as Aulnette and Corniou.

“The involvement of Steve Ballmer in person is a strong signal,” said S