It's a rare and momentous occasion when IBM and Microsoft share a stage to announce a new joint venture.

So what are we to make of Wednesday's joint commitment by Gates and IBM software chief Steve Mills to cooperate on so-called advanced Web services standards? Clearly, both companies have a lot on the line. Each has committed millions, if not billions, of dollars on Web services product development. And each has cooperated, along with Oracle, Sun Microsystems and others, on the core Web services standards already in place.

The party line is that the companies are cooperating for the greater good. They are also cooperating for their mutual benefit: Standards help to lay the foundation for applications built using each company's proprietary technologies. As Mills said last week: "There are huge opportunities for making money here."

Read more: CNet News.