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August 14, 2020

Microsoft: Linux – from cancer to revenue source

Things at Microsoft have for sure changed since Steve Ballmer‘s, then CEO at Microsoft, infamous “Linux is a cancer” statement in a commercial back in 2001.  Whereas Microsoft earlier saw Linux as something to avoid by all possible means, today it has become a steady source of revenue for the company. Thus, for example, on their Azure cloud service, more than half of all virtual machines run Linux. In addition, Microsoft is now a major Linux distributor with its Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) integrated into Windows 10, and various distros available in the Microsoft Store.

This policy shift started almost accidentally. In 2009, Microsoft released the source code for its ASP.Net MVC (Model View Controller) as open source, licensing it through its own Microsoft Public License. The move was approved and accepted by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). This approval was and is important, opening doors to the open source community for Microsoft.

Fast forward almost ten years. Microsoft joined a global non-profit organization, the Open Network Initiative (ONI) at the end of 2018, at the same time agreeing to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members including Google, IBM, Red Hat and SUSE.

Microsoft is totally committed to ONI and an active, engaged member of the open source community. By releasing its patent portfolio, it is actively helping to create a better Linux. Integrating WSL into Windows 10 was a smart move, too. Now, developers have it easier to develop cross-platform applications, with both Linux and Windows available on the same, integrated desktop. In developing its new Windows Terminal, one of Microsoft’s key objectives was to make various Linux distros available and easily customizable.

Of course Microsoft’s open source policy is not selfless, nor does it have to be. Azure alone is generating huge revenue based on various Linux services and virtual machines.

From once being a “cancer”, Linux has established itself as an integral part of Microsoft’s future. Linux on Azure advances all the time, more and more of Azure virtual machines and services run on Linux. Windows 10 users will get constant updates to WSL, making the integration better and better. However you look at it, Microsoft has made the right decision in joining ONI and releasing its patents. The better Microsoft and the Linux open source world can work together, the better it is for us end users.



Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

One Response “Microsoft: Linux – from cancer to revenue source”

  1. Toni Fasth
    October 14, 2019 at 11:28

    I can’t wait for WSL2.0 to be officially realesed. Then we’ll see real gains of running Linux apps and tools under Windows. Better app compatibility and much faster storage speeds.

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