Laden with intrigue, Microsoft's open-letter invitation to Mozilla developers to "see if you are open to some 1:1 support in getting Firefox and Thunderbird to run on Vista" houses within it the kick-start appeal of the choicest of Reality TV teases.

Sam Ramji, director of Microsoft's open source software lab, has extended what many perceive to be a carrot/white-flag/golden-ticket amalgam across the browser divide in hopes of luring four members of the Firefox development team to Windows Vista Readiness Island, er, ISV Lab - itself a somewhat hopeful, oxymoronic moniker. "Non-trivial," indeed.

The series, billed as a four-day weekly event in Redmond, will conclude with a December finale and is purported to include "secure office space for 4 people, hardware, VPN access, and 1:1 access to product team developers and support

The goal of the invitation, to enhance Vista interoperability with the increasingly popular Firefox broswer and Thunderbird email platform, has created quite a buzz - and without word yet on the invitation's acceptance. Whether Ramji's call-out is a concession of the myriad failings of Internet Explorer, a harbinger of greater open source involvement at Microsoft, or simply an attempt to keep an enemy closer while keeping another enemy (Google, perhaps?) at bay, this is certainly a development worth watching, especially given its 11th hour timing with Vista's supposed January release and recent news of Firefox support on the MSDN Wiki.

One may hope that though the chemistry will certainly prove less sensational and instructional than that of Chantelle and Preston, Microsoft's helping itself by helping others will benefit end-users and the enterprise considerably.