It seems that Microsoft is adopting a new strategy based on the old adage "hold your friends close and your enemies closer".
Microsoft executive Martin Taylor's schedule is packed with meetings like the one in June when he met with representatives from French drugmaker Aventis in his Redmond, Wash. office. Aventis has tied together groups of computers running not Microsoft's operating system but the freely available Linux. These high-performance clusters can analyze proteins at blazing speeds. "That's great for Linux," Taylor said cheerily, at the time. That same week–by coincidence, the company says–Microsoft announced plans for a new version of Windows software to handle exactly the kind of high-performance computing Aventis had set up. Says Taylor now, "I'll knock on their door in a few months so they can check out our stuff." Taylor, 34, is Microsoft's top Linux strategist. He speaks regularly at conferences for open-source programming, so called because anyone can examine and make changes to the underlying source code. (The guts of Microsoft's software, by contrast, have long been closely guarded.) He reads Linux-themed Web newsgroups daily and often phones around to Silicon Valley investors who are funding open-source software.
Linux is one of those products that seems to breed an unwavering loyalty in users. No matter how close Microsoft can get, I don't think they can squash the phenomenon.