So .. Microsoft loves Linux ?

Under former CEO Steve Ballmer, years ago, Microsoft tried to squash Linux, saying that it violated Microsoft’s patents and threatening to sue Linux vendors as well as Linux users.

It was not something new for Microsoft, it has in the past squished competition under its big foot with its policies and strategies, the most well known of which is “copying” in a way that you can’t be sued for it. This strategy still works and others like Facebook have openly copied that strategy. Facebook has copied twitter on several occassions, hastags, trending topics, etc.  Facebook owned Instagram recently announced it’s stories feature that it’s CEO openly admitted to have been copied from Snapchat.

Anyways, the remnants of that battle between Microsoft and Linux still exist today. Microsoft has wrangled patent-license agreements from nearly every device maker that chose the free and open-source Linux, or its derivative, Android. Reportedly Microsoft profits more than any single android OEM from Android smartphone sales.

But since the departure of Ballmer, the new and current CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella has brought a number of changes to the company and its attitude. Perhaps the biggest change at Microsoft under Satya Nadella, its gentler, more collaborative CEO, is the focus on cloud computing instead of Windows. According to Nadella, it doesn’t matter what platform Microsoft’s customers use if they are all using Microsoft’s Cloud technologies – even if that software is an operating system that competes with Windows, like Linux.

Even so, under Nadella, Microsoft has slowly supported more Linux technologies. That’s because it would rather its customers use Microsoft’s cloud and Linux than choose another cloud — like Amazon — for its Linux apps.

Coekaerts, who joined Microsoft five months ago after heading Oracle’s Linux efforts for many years, knows many of you won’t buy Microsoft’s new friendlier attitude. In his LinuxCon keynote speech, Coekaerts admitted that “A year ago I would not have considered working for Microsoft, but Microsoft has changed.”

Coekaerts, told ZDNet in an interview, “Satya [Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO] is very customer-centric. If they run Linux, and they often do, we want to make them happy. We have to play in an open, heterogeneous world.”

This Microsoft sea-change has been coming over the last few years. Microsoft hired Coekaerts because it knew how important open-source is. In particular, “Azure, Microsoft’s cloud program, has to be open-source and Linux friendly.”

And earlier this week, at the LinuxCon tech conference in Toronto, Microsoft said that it would be moving its PowerShell tool to Linux, too. PowerShell is a scripting language that lets IT professionals automate a lot of tasks in their Windows environments. Microsoft is now working on a version that lets them use PowerShell to run their Linux servers, too.

Long before Coekaerts arrived, Microsoft developers were working on open-source projects. Besides the official projects, such as making Linux work well with Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization, “There was more stuff out there than I knew. It wasn’t very organized. As an outsider you don’t see it, but there has long been an open culture in Microsoft.”, Coekaerts said.

In the interview, Coekaerts also tells how Linux is now treated equal as Windows at Microsoft and that Mirosoft itself uses a lot of Linux in-house.

It’s not just in Redmond. In his keynote, Coekaerts pointed out one in three Azure virtual machines (VM) are Linux and over 40 percent of VMs in new Azure deployments are Linux. Think about that. Microsoft’s new cloud customers are turning to Linux four times out of 10. Oh, and its numbers are only increasing.

While Nadella has long insisted that “Microsoft loves Linux” with this newest round of announcements, Microsoft has apparently earned the interest of Linus Torvalds in return.

Yes, Linus Trovalds, the creator of Linux, one of the most revered software developers in the world — and rightly so– who is still the primary keeper of Linux. He is often quoted as saying , “If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I’ve won.” And it seems he may have.

Microsoft currently supports CentOS, CoreOS, Debian, openSUSE, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), and Ubuntu.

Related : Make Linux More Elegant With these Icon packs

This in no way means Microsoft will be coming out with MS-Linux but I for one would be excited to see how that turns out to be, if it ever happens. Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft is keen to change it’s image among the Open Source and Linux communities, and also as a more customer friendly company. It’s recent small  steps are evidence of that, but often some controversial decisions such as forcing updates and then causing web cams to break, of course ‘unintentionally’, still don’t really help improve that image.

We do not see what is going inside the well maintained office walls, but “Showing the code” is after all the best way to convince people that you’re all for supporting Open Source.

Coekaerts sees Microsoft’s future as being both “Windows and Linux.” After All, “Linux is part of our day to day life at Microsoft.”

What do you think, will we see a future where Windows and Linux work together and get better? Are you still not convinced about Microsoft’s love for Linux?


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