There's an interesting conspiracy theory over at Zeldman's joint.
Dave Winer puts the death of IE5/Mac into context,
concluding "It took (Bill Gates) ten years to erase the web as a
threat. It's done now. He owns it, it's in the trunk (I know you don't
like to hear this), it's locked, and they're driving it off a cliff
into the ocean."
The timing of recent events bears out Dave's thesis, at least as far as Microsoft's intentions are concerned. The U.S. government found Microsoft guilty of having criminally abused its monopoly power to crush competing Internet-based businesses. Yet the government did nothing about it. The AOL lawsuit posed a problem for Microsoft; so Microsoft bought off AOL. Only after AOL took the money did Microsoft quietly let slip the news that it intends to kill its Mac and Windows browsers. (And in fact, we now learn, some eighteen months ago a few Microsoft marketers told a designer friend that the company intended to kill its own browsers once all the legal hubbub died down.)
By its recent actions, Microsoft seems to believe that if consumers want the Internet, they will use the next version of Windows to access Microsoft-based web services and MSN content, and to download XBox patches. And some consumers will do just that. But consumers have a choice.
So what does all this mean? Nothing to web developers IMO - just that IE will be around for a long time and (hopefully) will continue to support web standards. I think it will - Microsoft never seems to get rid of its codebases.