It's very clear what is happening. Linux is now the de-facto commodity operating system for servers. Microsoft, having gone through the ignore-laugh-fight-lose cycle has now realised that it can turn patent troll on Linux and jump ahead a full business cycle, going from commercial server operating system to IPR revenue model without the messy free software step in between.
“How do you make money from free software?”, asked the VC. “Patents”, came the answer from the lawyer.
Microsoft will embrace Linux, it is inevitable and will follow the same curve as business's embrace of Linux: server first, from micro to large and then medium and finally small enterprise. Like the fashion industry, the biggest firms in the world get their technochic fix from the ghettos, picking up corporately sanitised Linux distributions, wearing their RHEL tattoos like any Hollywood gangsta. “Yo! Just swapped out Solaris for RHEL, dudes! Man, you shoulda seen that vendor run!! High five!”
And the techno chic dribbles down the ladder, spreading out to the mass market as people realise, (a) it's cheaper, (b) it's better, and (c) it works. Microsoft can't fight the first two, so they put their money on the third, which where their embrace and extend comes in.
Novell Suse will work better with Windows because Vista will make sure this happens. Microsoft intends to apply a tax on every Suse sold, and it will do whatever it can to destroy competing Linux products.
OK, let me make a few more predictions. I think it'll take a while still for Microsoft to accept that Linux really is a future market. We're still seeing the start of the cognitive process inside Microsoft. Once the company decides, it'll start an aggressive campaign against Suse's main competitor, namely Red Hat. The campaign won't mention patents, it'll be aimed at the market. It'll say, “Why use a Linux that doesn't work with your Windows?”
Where do patents come in? I doubt that Microsoft will assert its patents against Red Hat directly. This would bring down too much wrath. Microsoft will instead cast doubt on other Linux vendors, saying they are “pirates”. It'll patent specific interfaces, and sue anyone who tries to reverse-engineer them. And it'll use patents to justify the extortion of a per-CPU and per-seat tax on every Suse user. Novell will continue to distribute Suse.
With exceptions for the ghetto, of course. Even Microsoft realises a good thing when it sees it.