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Microsoft and Novell move in together or, how open source helps the also-ran

Microsoft is tying up with Novell to push its Adobe alternative, Silverlight. Clearly, Microsoft understands open source as a competitive weapon. The question is whether it can effectively wield it?

It's getting to the point that Microsoft and Novell just need to get married and stop shamming the "dating dance." I'm referring, of course, to the announcement today that the two companies are formalizing "a collaboration between Microsoft and Novell with the explicit purpose of bringing Silverlight to Linux and do this in a fully supported way.

What "fully supported" means is a question that Mary Jo Foley asks, and does a good job of answering. (She also points out that this collaboration/development has been much stronger than Novell and Microsoft have been telling us.)

But the most interesting take is Tim O'Reilly's:

[Microsoft] recognize[s] that open source is a great way to displace an incumbent (in this case Adobe), and aren't afraid to use the right tools for the job. As the competition with Google heats up, I expect to see a lot more open source from Microsoft in the Web 2.0 arena as well.

Get that? Open source doesn't make much sense to Microsoft as it relates to its Office of Windows businesses, because it is dominant there. But in areas where it is source suddenly makes a lot of sense. I agree with Tim: I think we'll see open source cropping up at Microsoft in areas where it needs help displacing an incumbent.

In the meantime, given how chummy Microsoft and Novell are, why don't they just marry and get it over with?