Another ace up their sleeve?
Disclaimer: These ideas are to be considered my personal rants, and not well-informed facts. Even if I from time to time has been in on public BETA programs from Microsoft, I'm not in the inner circle. I'm a computer enthusiast who used to work with computers (before my health caught up with me), nothing more.
Microsoft may be considering moving their server applications to an opensource*1 platform. No really.
And they can do it really easy, and still make money off it*2. If they write up a compatibility layer translating all their current system calls into BSD system calls*3, all they need is to make IFDEFs in their source code, and recompile with a new target.
They may even add it as a closed source module into an existing FreeBSD codebase, much the same way the Linux binary compatibility is done in FreeBSD. This would allow them a relatively painfree replacement of php with asp, apache with iis, and mysql with mssql*4. This work would even pave the way*5 for replacing parts of their low-level windows code aswell, much the same way as Apple did with OSX. This would make sense for them, as maintaining their current codebase is getting very expensive, especially with the EU and US antitrust lawsuit losses, three new EU lawsuits for interoperability coming closer on the horizon, and a lot of flak being taken worldwide. Yahoo has a lot of BSD-familiar programmers. Add those programmers into Microsofts own team, and add Microsofts codebase, and such a move is actually possible. And this would make the insane amount MS is willing to pay for Yahoo make some kind of sense.
Microsoft wants to be considered the "Formula one team" of IT. Even if noone outside the top floor of their Redmond HQ sees anything resembling this. One thing that Formula one teams does, is to "beta-test" technology on their race car, then bring the stable version of that tech into their regular cars. All the teams does this. Same with WRC.
To our day-to-day computer reality, this compares to branching out a development version, then merging the stabilized code back to the main codebase. We've all done this, or seen it done. Those development versions are usually what we call Alpha and Beta versions, while the first merges are called "release candidates", until we're sure we have the code fully merged. It's the same thinking as the racecar/regular car analogy. And for the same reason. Much like the racecar driver, the IT Pro running a beta, usually knows what to do when the system fails, and both can usually walk away from a crash with nothing lost apart from the test version (noone beta-tests on a production system, for obvious reasons). Microsoft wants to be considered the "Formula one" of IT. They may be considering bringing in Yahoo's BSD coders... Infact, Ballmer has admitted asmuch. He said they were after the developers. Microsoft may well be willing to pay that much for the development part of Yahoo, integrate the developers with their own team (including those from FAST*6), then leave the Yahoo management and operations to keep running their now "stale" company, until Microsoft cannibalize Live search, and Yahoo search into a new and better (ahem.) MS solution.
_IF_ Microsoft are making such a move-to-BSD-base (RecycleBSD?), and keep their compatibility layer (for old software) commercial, along with keeping the Microsoft Audio+GUI code (including all parts of DirectX) closed-source (For DRM, for control), we might finally see a stable "Windows". And a fast one. And it would properly explain the SUA*7 in Both 2003, and Vista.
Before you think "this guy is eighter from Upney, or from East Ham"*8, remember my disclaimer on the top of this post.
------- Footnotes -------
*1: No, opensource does not automatically mean Linux, even if Linux is distributed under an opensource license. There are other opensource licenses than the dreaded, infectious, GPL. And GPL is considered an infectious license because it contains a clause that makes all derivates of a GPL source, become GPL. A truly free opensource license, such as the BSD license is compatible with Microsoft's model, since they can use the code, and then DON'T need to freely give away all their work on making the BSD code work. And before you start screaming about such a move from Microsoft, please start your criticism by pointing at OSX (OSX is built on the backs of FreeBSD coders.)
*2: No, I did not eat the same breakfast cereal as amanfromMars.
*3: see: Cocoa/Carbon, and Linux compatibility in FreeBSD
*4: Those server applications aren't half bad today, considering the limits the existing operating system puts on them.
*5: Microsoft may be considering this method of Paving the way, aswell: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/gbu-24.htm
*8: See the map here (one stop short of...): http://tiniuri.com/f/s8c