The decision by arch-rivals Sun and Microsoft to settle a bitter legal dispute will give users wider choice over hardware and software platforms.
Although exact details of the future collaboration have yet to emerge, analysts believe the agreement will simplify IT operations for users by allowing closer integration between Microsoft and Sun products.
Earlier this month the two suppliers settled a long-running dispute over Java and access to Microsoft-specific technologies, which resulted in Microsoft paying Sun £490m to resolve anti-trust issues and £380m for patent issues.
The feud predates the US Department of Justice's legal wrangling with Microsoft, even though Sun only filed its suit about Java in March 2002.
Although there are few definitive details of the collaboration between Sun and Microsoft, the settlement stands to yield a number of benefits for users.
The sharing agreement will ensure that Microsoft continues to support Java in its Internet Explorer web browser. With Java now widely used in websites, support for Java in browsers has become increasingly important.
Companies developing IT projects using web services architecture also stand to gain by the agreement.
Sun and Microsoft have undertaken to make their rival web service architectures, Java Enterprise Edition and .net, interoperable. They will also collaborate on Windows server and client technologies and work to allow identity information to be shared between the two rival directory systems, Active Directory and Java System Identity Server.
Analysts said the agreement was good news for users.
"This creates a surprising new ally for Microsoft in the face of pressure from IBM and Linux," said Brian Gammage, vice president at analyst firm Gartner.
Dave Shearer, chairman of the Sun User Group, said, "This widens users' choice, but will it trickle down to usable products? Sun and Microsoft already have products in the pipeline for the next 12 to 18 months."
Sun/Microsoft deal: key benefits
- Java support
Microsoft will support Java in Internet Explorer web browser
- Web services
J2EE and .net web service architectures to be interoperable
- Windows on Sun
Windows server and client collaboration
- ID support
Identity management systems to work together