Microsoft has always been known for its competitive nature, and a part of that is that it doesn't just focus on beating its competitors, it gleefully looks for ways to drive them into the ground and stomp on them until they're completely decimated. Unfortunately, in the last few years, they've started to run into some problems in doing so as the biggest competition has come from two directions they haven't figured out how to compete with -- because neither involves selling software. On the internet side, of course, there's Google, which has built up a huge following, a tremendous bank account, and supports it all with its popular ad system. On the other side, there's Linux, which has been around a lot longer (and certainly on Microsoft's radar screen for quite a while). While Microsoft would admit that Linux was in the marketplace, they still pushed very hard to convince everyone that they should be a pure Microsoft shop -- and had no interest in hybrids. However, in a slight sign of admission that there really are some companies out there who are going to use Linux on the backend and Microsoft elsewhere, Microsoft has surprised the world in doing a deal with Novell
. As with many partnerships, this one is probably a lot more talk than substance. However, if a Microsoft sales person is unable to convince a company to go full-on Microsoft, the company will sell a combined package that includes both Windows licenses and maintenance and support for Novell's Suse Linux (no other kinds of Linux are included). It's not much of an embrace, but just to have Microsoft willing to open up a bit to admit that some customers, somewhere, might actually want to use Linux is still a big step.
A more interesting part of the deal, however, is Microsoft's admission that they won't try to sue over any patent issues related to Suse Linux (again, only Suse). To date, Microsoft has pretty much stayed out of the Linux-patent fight, perhaps waiting (or, some have said funding
) to see what happens with the SCO patent lawsuit. Promising not to use patents as a weapon may ease some minds, though the success of Linux in the enterprise up until now suggests that there really weren't that many companies scared off by the potential threat of Microsoft patent infringement lawsuits.