No, that's not my prediction for Microsoft's mysterious Monday announcement. No, it's what Microsoft is already doing with last week's unexpected release of Skype 4 for Linux. Microsoft--Microsoft!--of all companies has just shipped its first mass-market, end-user Linux desktop program.
It really wasn't surprising that Microsoft saw the light of Linux on servers when they started supporting major Linux distributions -- CentOS, openSUSE, SUSE Linux, and Ubuntu -- on Windows Azure. Ballmer and the rest of Microsoft's brass may not like it one darn bit, but they know that people want Linux servers on the cloud so they had to give it to them.
In fact, Microsoft itself is using Linux for its services. Ironically enough, Microsoft has moved Skype from its peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture to one built around... wait for it: Linux servers.
Earlier this year, Immunity Security's senior security researcher Kostya Kortchinsky discovered that Microsoft had replaced Skype's network of "supernodes" Skype user PCs with sufficient bandwidth, processing horsepower, and system resources to handle Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls and traffic control with 10,000 Microsoft/Skype hosted supernodes. According to Kortchinsky, and later tacitly confirmed by Microsoft, these new Skype servers are running Linux with grsecurity, server patches.
The desktop is another story though. While I use the Linux desktop, Linux Mint 13 for the most part, every day, I know there aren't that many of us. Even now, hardware vendors like Nvidia don't give Linux anything like enough support and if you want to buy a laptop or desktop with Linux pre-installed you need to look to small vendors such as System76 and ZaReason.
Despite that though Microsoft is finally offering a desktop program for Linux. If you consider Microsoft's long bitter history with Linux, that's amazing. There's only one reason why they'd do it: They think that they can make money from it.
So, perhaps the Linux desktop is indeed bigger than the 1% of the market it's usually given. Indeed, it appears that the Linux desktop has been growing over the last year.
Will Linux on the desktop ever threaten to catch up with Windows on the desktop? Nah. But, it does seem that Microsoft, for the first time ever, thinks there's enough Linux desktop users out there that they're worth supporting. Who would have thought it? Can Microsoft Office for Linux be far behind!!?