Okay, so yesterday Microsoft signed a deal to co-market SuSe Linux with Novell and Oracle just announced a few weeks ago that it would support and extend Red Hat "enterprise" Linux!?
What's next: are we going to see Apple drop PPC for Intel or CNN tell the truth about increasing stability and civilian support for America in Iraq?
Actually, I guess the flat earth event here has already happened - and, by comparison we shouldn't be surprised by the other two.
In particular Microsoft is going after edirectory with a lovely little plan to stick it to IBM - because right now Novell has the technology (although not in SuSe) and IBM has the only serious competitor in Notes. And if you're wondering why SuSe, remember that in anti-trust, as in magic, they want you to watch what the right hand is doing so you won't see the left one reaching for the crown jewels.
And as for Oracle's little announcement, well, that's actually way more interesting. Oracle has the same problem all the other Linux vendors have: you really can't sell a big commercial product on a platform that doesn't offer rock solid backwards and forwards binary compatibility across releases. The difference, however, is that Oracle has the technical resources to think it can fork Linux for its own ends - i.e. maintain that missing compatibility while also embracing change - and the management hubris to think it can make money doing it.
I'll bet they can't do it - they renewed their commitment to Solaris earlier this year precisely because a customer who deployed Oracle 7.3 on Solaris 2.5.1 in the mid to late ninties can run those same binaries on a Solaris 10 based T2000 today - but Sun engineering has a unique culture and I don't see Oracle pulling it off.
By themselves I don't think the strategic drivers would have been enough to get these things past senior management in either Microsoft or Oracle, but there's another shoe getting ready to fall: rumors of an SCO settlement. Depending on whether that happens and what the terms are, that could lead to precisely the strategic re-positioning we're seeing these two giants doing as they jockey to attack Lotus and DB2 respectively. That's why, I think, both edirectory and Red Hat are now in play - with Microsoft bearding with SuSe and Oracle holding up a 90% price cut on support to disguise its real intent.