Can Microsoft afford to ignore Linux?

completed the of , their new and line of business – The Windows Observer–Antivirus, Anti-Spyware Strategy Moves Forward for Microsoft.

One line from the news caught my eye as something that makes immediate common sense but may not be right strategically after all "Not surprisingly, Microsoft will discontinue new sales of Sybari's products for the ( and ) and operating systems. It will, however, continue to sell and support Sybari software running on 's platform; the Notes installed base is predominantly -based.".

The reporter's common sense as well as Microsoft's led to the almost automatic decision for Microsoft to discontinue the Linux product line and just keep Windows-based products alive. The common sense tells us why should a company like Microsoft support the endorsement of Linux, a direct rival on their core product – the operating system.

Still, following the same line of thought a question arises, If Microsoft stops supporting this Linux-based product line, will that affect in any way world-wide Linux adoption and endorsement by other vendors and users? The only thing a move like that does is a statement of PR and market positioning that they don't believe in the existence or viable future of the Linux platform.

Let's imagine the crazy scenario where Microsoft does keep this product line alive and even invests in it some more resources. What would be their benefits and downsides on a move like that.
Benefits:
1) Gain domain expertise and intimate acquaintance with Linux developers and most important users. Linux does and will exist regardless of the decision to discontinue this product line and while years ago a move like that could have killed the "unborn child" today it is more of acknowledging and getting to know your growing "illegal son".
2) It can help them understand better the economics of Linux enterprise and consumer users as well as keep a close eye on its adoption patterns.
3) Provide a much more friendly positioning to enterprise buyers and consumers that already know that MS-Windows is no more the only alternative for running applications; an example alternative is the application environment.
4) Yesterday I read a post How Microsoft Lost the API War on "" blog that discusses thoroughly how the longstanding fortress of Microsoft operating system and its API lock-in strategy erode. It might be just an expert opinion that will not hold true by Microsoft executives but still it has a lot of common sense in it. This can be an opportunity for Microsoft to fit in the new computing landscape that is evidently mixed by nature.

Downsides:
1) The stock may suffer temporarily by Microsoft's move that admits openly Linux is here to stay.
2) The internal pride and enterprise-wide goal of keeping the title of the ubiquitous operating system will vanish. This is a matter of a cultural change.

I personally think it is time for Microsoft to acknowledge the Linux paradigm shit, wisely, and stop pretending it does not exist.

Update: See complete coverage on the move internetnews.

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