Disclaimer: I work in Azure.
Is there still any value for Microsoft in Win9x?
An open source XP would get many hackers interested in Windows, something they desperately need.
They are definitely making money on closed-source operating systems and operating system tools:
It wasn't free--it took a couple of hours of my time!
Microsoft could come up with their own license that was "open source" but not "free software" by Stallman's definitions (ignoring here the people who've attempted to make these terms synonymous), which would allow people to change code and distribute freely among license holders, but not allow people to resell or just give out copies of Windows. I'd actually be really excited about this, because I think the FSF is overboard with their demand that everyone essentially make their software unsellable.
They could go the Red Hat route, go GPL, accept that they'll no longer get money for software licenses but instead support contracts (they could even try selling these to consumers; Dell would pay MS $50/PC not for a copy of Windows, but for a subscription to Windows Update). This would shift the dynamics of the company a bit, but probably not as much as one may think, since enterprise keeps MS afloat anyway, and it may be a good solution.
The important question then would be: Could you legally port directx to *nix from this? If not, then what'd be the point?
Maybe open sourcing Windows will keep their other products at the positive for longer.
I think Microsoft would do very well to go the IBM route, and a FOSS Windows would really shake up the market.
Anyhow, the new MS CEO seems like a good guy, hopefully it's the beginning of a less evil, nicer Microsoft.
As for buying them, why mess up a good thing?
Some things only work in Silverlight, some only in WPF, and mixing both at the same time is a royal pain.
There are a LOT of bugs and regressions in WPF4 that are "wontfix", were supposed to be fixed in 4.5 or 5.0, but that's never going to happen. (Google "wpf 3.5 4.0 bug wontfix" to see a very incomplete list of regressions. I've met some of these myself, and some that are not on the first two pages).
And lastly, unlike Silverlight (Mac or Win, no Android, no iOS, no Linux), HTML5 is much more widely available (and with an easier graceful degradation path). The only place where using WPF or Silverlight makes sense today is when your target audience is using a locked down system - e.g. an enterprise with tightly controlled client machines. Otherwise, it's a no-go just from this perspective.
I didn't find the learning curve intimidating, FWIW. But the experience with using and deploying me scarred me.
The lack of support killed off the language, not the language itself, IMO.
Isn't it kind of the point of web browsers to render webpages in a common open language instead of being a host for proprietary vendor specific plugins? What's the big advantage over standalone applications in that case anyway?
e.g. Google is very far from 99% Windows - and though it is not your standard "enterprise", it is far from unique.
Convincing Google, Apple, Mozilla, the rest of the universe to adopt Microsoft's closed platform (even if it were Open Sourced) = billions of billions of man hours :)
Disclaimer: I contribute to some ASF projects.
also, what do you see MSFT to do to regain talent from Facebook and Google?