Could Microsoft’s software run eventually on open source systems such as Linux? One top executive of the open source movement believes it could well come true.

Stuart Cohen, CEO of Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), told Techworld that the world’s biggest software company, wedded to the business model of selling proprietary, closed technology, that: "as open source software grows, Microsoft will make its applications available in open source form."

He added: "Their customers are also Linux customers, and they are interested in interoperability - servers and desktops. They will make it available."

In the Techworld interview, Cohen commented on the open source software (OSS) documentation, support for Linux, the OSS movement's relationship with its customers - and whether the model needs a greater degree of central control in order to increase its focus on more commercial products. He said that the OSDL had recently set up a European office in Luxembourg, and that it had opened an office in China.

The aim of the non-profit-making OSDL, home to Linux creator Linus Torvalds, is to accelerate the growth and adoption of enterprise Linux in the enterprise. Its founding members include IBM, HP, CA, and Intel.

The backdrop to Cohen's comments, which followed Cohen's speech over a video-link from his office in Portland, Oregon to the Commonwealth Technology Forum (CTF) in London, is an apparent softening of the hard line attitude taken by Microsoft - or at least a willingness to learn from the OSS. The Redmond company's boss Steve Ballmer was recently seen eating out in New York with Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik, while Daniel Robbins, the founder of Gentoo Linux - one of the more popular distributions - was recently hired by Microsoft.

Microsoft is traditionally rarely first in a market. But once it decide to bend its resources in a certain direction, its deep pockets, and willingness and ability to turn the business round quickly mean that existing players usually get crushed.