Microsoft has been changing its focus over the last few years, opening up its ecosystem and learning to play well with others. From the release of cross-platform apps for iOS and Android to the announcement of Visual Studio for Mac, Microsoft has been changing the way it does business and views software. Now the company has joined the Linux Foundation as a platinum member.
Microsoft has been offering support for Linux in some capacity for years, but it has been ramping up support recently with releases like .NET Core 1.0 and building a Linux subsystem into Windows 10. Joining the Linux Foundation will allow Microsoft to further align itself with a market that may not initially trust the historically closed off company.
You can thank the cloud for the change of heart. As Microsoft has focused more and more on cloud services and tools, open-source software has become an important aspect of expanding the company's reach with developers.
Microsoft says as much in its announcement:
“We want to help developers achieve more and capitalize on the industry’s shift toward cloud-first and mobile-first experiences using the tools and platforms of their choice. By collaborating with the community to provide open, flexible and intelligent tools and cloud services, we’re helping every developer deliver unprecedented levels of innovation.”
This move is a massive change for Microsoft who, dating back to the '90s, has been incredibly hostile to open-source projects. The infamous Halloween Memos showed it viewed open source as a threat, with one stating, “the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in open-source software has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long-term developer mindshare threat.” Simply put, you can’t charge a fee for open source.
In a 2001 interview, Microsoft Cheif Executive Steve Ballmer said, “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches...The way the license is written (the Linux kernel uses the GPL), if you use any open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source."
However, by 2007, the company was starting to change its tune on open source, with two of its licenses being granted open-source status from the Open Source Initiative. In 2009, it began open-sourcing parts of the .NET environment, and the ball has just kept rolling.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Microsoft’s further expansion into the world of Linux, but at least the company is making some changes for the better when it comes to working with others.