My first reaction when I got an e-mail from Microsoft about a big announcement involving Chief Executive Steve Ballmer this afternoon was that Vista was going to be shipping early. Rumors have been flying that the new and much-delayed version of the Windows operating system is just about done.
Instead, it’s a much bigger bombshell: Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) has announced a partnership with Novell (nasdaq: NOVL - news - people ) and will help promote Linux.
This is stunning. This is like Red Sox fans announcing they’re going to root for the Yankees.
Microsoft has spent ten years bashing the free-of-charge open-source Linux operating system and trying to kill it. Now Microsoft is making nice.
Novell distributes a version of Linux called Suse. The company has been an also-ran in the Linux market, behind Red Hat (nasdaq: RHAT - news - people ), the market leader. But support from Microsoft could give Novell a boost.
That’s yet more bad news for Red Hat. That company is still reeling from an attack last week from software giant Oracle (nasdaq: ORCL - news - people ), which said it would start offering support for Red Hat’s version of Linux.
Red Hat’s PR department tried to put a good spin on the Microsoft-Novell pact: “It’s fantastic news. Two of the main tech companies decided to get behind Linux within six days. If that’s not validation, what is?” a spokeswoman said.
Um, right. Note to Red Hat: When companies start talking about Microsoft “validating” their market, they’re usually about to be validated out of business.