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September 23, 2020

Microsoft Open Source Website Makes Debut

According to eagle-eyed ZDnet reporter Liam Tung, MS launched a new Open Source website last Thursday, August 13. Prosaically enough it’s named https://opensource.microsoft.com/. Windows 10 aficianados and Win10.Guru readers will recognize at least several of the items that fall under this new and rapidly-spreading Microsoft Umbrella. Let me name just a few, all of which either Kari or I have written about here: PowerToys, Windows Terminal, Windows Calculator, the Windows Package Manager CLI (aka winget), PowerShell, and more. Right now, I count a total of 45 individual projects on the site’s “Explore Projects” page.

From Cancer to Key Ingredient for MS Success

Infamously, then CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer positioned Linux in 2001 as “a a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” (Through the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, Novell spin-off Caldera did indeed make things interesting for many parties thanks to rumors of a raft of lawsuits at about that time, so Ballmer wasn’t just frothing at the mouth for no reason.) MS was likewise down on Open Source and disinclined to take it seriously or to treat it with any kind of respect. MS President (and former Chief Counsel) Brad Smith recently (May 14, 2020) admitted at an MIT event that “Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally.” In fact, The Verge reported on May 18, 2020 as follows:

The software giant is now the single largest contributor to open-source projects in the world, beating Facebook, Docker, Google, Apache, and many others.

Microsoft has gradually been adopting open source in recent years, including open-sourcing PowerShell, Visual Studio Code, and even Microsoft Edge’s original JavaScript engine. Microsoft has also partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10, and it acquired Xamarin to aid mobile app development and GitHub to maintain the popular code repository for developers.

A Whole New Open Source Outlook Emerges

Microsoft has indeed changed its thinking and its ways where Open Source is concerned. I attribute this at least in part to the influence of Azure, which is deliberately and consciously platform agnostic in its cloud-based offerings. And in fact, as of July 2019 (see this ZDNet story from my old friend Steven J Vaughan-Nichols) the number of instances of Linux on Azure surpassed the number of Windows instances there back in July 2019. This trend has continued unabated since then, with Linux servers in a clear majority over Windows servers in the Azure cloud to this day.

It just goes to show that MS is smart enough not to bite the hand that feeds it. Indeed, it’s also smart enough to support the of software needed for using, building, and running such tools within the various forms and flavors of the Windows OS, both desktop and server, as well as within Azure’s even more accommodating embrace. All of this explains why you might consider adding Opensource.Microsoft.com to your browser bookmarks or favorites, and getting in habit of checking in there to see what’s new every now and then. There’s lots of good stuff there already, with more sure to come in the future. Enjoy!


Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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