Does Microsoft still need Novell?

The key question becomes, does Microsoft really need Novell anymore, or is it ready to try its luck with Linux directly?

Novell is now facing the consequences of leaving its fate in another company's hands. (Picture from OS2Voice.org.)

Its terrible horrible, no good, very bad quarter was driven partly by its troubles in the proprietary market, partly by its failure to line up the big Linux licensing deals that came in the wake of its 2007 cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft.

Even our own Matt Asay has been surprised with how fast Novell fell after Microsoft pulled out the financial rug.

The key question becomes, does Microsoft really need Novell anymore, or is it ready to try its luck with Linux directly?

This places Thursday's speculation on Bob Muglia into a different light. Could saying such nice things about open source be the prelude to a direct Microsoft entry into the Linux market, based on picking up Novell's fallen flag?

Hard recessions lead to decisions which, in normal times, would look exceedingly strange. If Novell can no longer stand on its own, Microsoft's Linux strategy would have to include picking up its pieces.

And then we could really see if the elephant can tap dance.