I'm not sure exactly how much tongue in cheek or plain old linux zelotry (is that a word?) is involved in the latest "ask Microsoft to open source windows" letter, but I took a look through Dear Mr. Gates: save Vista, open-source it and found it ..... interesting.
Most of my comments amount to "not going to happen." Even if they did give it away, how long would it take to do anything on it? Remember mozilla and the problems they had when they open sourced just the browser? How long would it take for people to get in and know enough of the windows guts to do anything useful.
Sure, maybe a couple of minor itches could be scratched, things like stripping out the deluge of DRM processes taking up memory or maybe changing the logout button to separate icons or something (that's already done with tweak VI BTW), but addressing some of the real issues that are (IMHO) plaguing Vista like security, the UAC PITA, compatibility and performance? And doing it so that nothing else breaks, and that people trust it afterwards? I remember hearing that windows 2000 or 2003 or XP took 24 hours to do a full build. I really don't think that hobby hackers have quite that amount of patience.
What could come from it though, would be to take some of the core win32 code and use that in the Wine Project and in OS/X to give compatibility between the apps and whatever OS the user wants to run them on. The OS really doesn't matter as much these days, because people are really just running apps (or in extreme cases not even that in a web-based world). Wouldn't it be wonderful to have your sexy OS/X desktop and run [insert needed windows app here]? Or have the ease and convenience of GNOME (or KDE you freaks) and run [other needed windows app here] alongside [needed / loved Linux app here]? Heck, in a perfect world you'd be able to run OS/X apps on all three major platforms as well!
Or hey, port over the windows shell to run on top of Linux... Mac did it with OS/X didn't they?
Anyway, end rant. Short story is if you need/want windows and don't like Vista or don't want it, don't use it, use XP (at least until 2008). Ubuntu is very close to their next version and if you want super-sexy hardware, just get yourself a mac.