Why is Microsoft hearting Linux & Open Source now?

There was a time when Microsoft was totally against Open Source software and considered many of them, including Linux, as opponents. However, 2014 saw an event where the stage backdrop said Microsoft loves Linux (with a heart symbol). In the same event, Nadella professed Microsoft’s love for Linux and open source.

Microsoft loves Open Source

Suddenly you have started seeing Microsoft loves Linux, Microsoft loves Open Source, SQL Serve loves Linux and such signs everywhere. You may have read in the news about Microsoft professing its love for Open Source software and releasing tools, Phone apps, and software for iOS, Linux, Android, etc. – as well as for Academics. You may have also read about it making some of its codes go Open Source – like Chakra.NET, etc. The also announced a partnership with Red Hat.

What happened to make Microsoft now love things that it desisted before? Why is it talking about open source program and helped create some? Some of the Linux and Android-based open source tools are already available on GitHub.  This post tries to list out things that will help us understand why Microsoft loves Linux now.

Read: Difference between Free Software, Open Source, Shareware, etc.

Microsoft loves Open Source

Microsoft needs Linux for its Azure

When Ballmer was heading Microsoft, he said that Linux was a commercial cancer that should be eradicated as soon as possible. The teams in Microsoft were completely closed and saw Open Source software as competition – not only Linux but even smaller software like OpenOffice, ThinkFree Office, etc.

But then, Microsoft brought in Nadella and he modified the motto of the company to “Cloud First, Mobile First“. Windows 10 already proves that they are making good of the motto. I mean, they are moving towards the cloud and cloud computing. Windows 10 is completely compatible with cloud – OneDrive – and even Office 365 if you dig a bit deeper.

More than anything else, Microsoft is focussing on its cloud offerings: Office 365 and Azure. The latter is being promoted extensively as an all-purpose platform offering different types of functions: From simple email to heavy computations, creating, hosting and distributing codes from a single point and plenty of things more that I don’t even keep a tab of. Microsoft now wants to open its Azure platform for all services irrespective of operating system used – be it Windows, Linux or any other.

Coming back to the question why Microsoft loves Linux all of a sudden, the answer is that people (developers) who come to Azure, are bringing their own tools to the cloud offering. And to make it possible, Microsoft had to give up the Azure API. This helped the cloud business grow. Nadella himself admitted in 2014 that almost 20 percent of Azure is being used by open source software and programs. That is, 20 percent of payload on Azure is Linux based as the developers use Linux to create software that makes use of Azure API to get things done.

If it is increasing the cloud business of Microsoft, naturally it will have to love Linux. It can’t afford to hate it because it is bringing in more business than ever. And with the competitors like Google and AWS, Microsoft needs open source Linux more than ever. It has to make sure that their offering is used by as many organizations as possible. For that end, Linux is OK. Even Android based programs are ok.

What I am trying to say is that since Microsoft needs Linux and other such open source software (or operating systems), it is natural it will love the open source environment.

Microsoft’s future is in the Clouds with Azure

Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform Chief Technology Officer, Mark Russinovich has already said – Open Source is no longer taboo to Microsoft. You can now read the Openness Blog to see what the team says about Linux.

Exiting the operating system business?

Another reason I see why Microsoft loves Linux is that the software company may completely leave operating system business in nine years from now. The mainstream support for Windows 10 will end by 2020, and the extended support will end by 2025.

In an event last year, Microsoft confirmed on stage that Windows 10 would be its last operating system. Looking that way, the only way people who can keep Windows alive is if Microsoft makes the code public. While I do not think it will make the entire code public, the major parts of the code that allow tweaking of internal apps could be out in space for developers to modify and use in their organizations. It is just a speculation at this point, and few experts are talking about it. But the talk is there, so it has to be looked into, instead of just ignoring it. The Windows team worked hard to produce this operating system and I don’t think they’ll simply dispose it off.

You might ask where Linux fits in if Windows goes open source. Just like it is being used with Azure, Linux might be well used to pull only as many procedures as required out of the Windows code so that one can keep the machine requirements lower. If Windows goes open source – part or in whole – other operating systems such as Android and Cyanogen etc. might also be making use of procedure calls to make use of the better parts of the now proprietary operating system.

Again as I said, we’ll have to wait and see on this one. One more reason I can think of why Microsoft loves Linux and another open source software (basically operating systems) is that it earns a lot from companies using these open source software.

Microsoft has now even released its own Distribution of FreeBSD operating system.

Legal but secret earnings of Microsoft

If a company is using Android, Microsoft gets a share out of the Android revenue – one time or based on the number of products sold. It was all secret until Samsung went to court to challenge what Microsoft said to be its patent. Not only Android but many other open source software use things like a file system, remote procedures, etc. Microsoft claims it has patented all these technologies already and thus, has the right to stop the companies from using it. But since it would be more interested in royalty, it allows them to use it because of the earnings.

Read: How do Open Source Companies make money.

Anything that pays you good – without much tension – always feels good. So whenever a company employs these open source programs that use Linux, Android or any other operating system, they have to pay a bit to Microsoft. These earnings are not shown as royalties on the books of the company. They are posted under different labels so that people don’t know the real source of income.

These are the three main points why I think Microsoft has now started hearting Linux and other open source systems. The main point is, of course, the ability to expand cloud business by allowing open source to access Azure for better convenience of users. The other two, may or may not be of much importance.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN