If there’s one thing to be said about 2016, it’s that it’s full of surprises. This year has seen events you would’t have dreamt of a decade ago. A new era in the tech world is upon us, driven by the rise to power of new blood in big companies who are friendlier and more modern in their approach to the rest of the tech world.
If you want proof of that, look no further than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Much like Sundar Pichai has with Google, Nadella has softened Microsoft up a bit and made the company as a whole more willing to embrace what’s going on around them.
After a long campaign against open source and Linux, Microsoft has for the past few years been pushing its love of the popular operating system. It is now the largest contributor to open source softwares. On Wednesday, the company made that even more official by joining the Linux Foundation, an organization that shepherds development of the operating system’s kernel and provides funding for open source projects. Microsoft is now spending $500,000 (£400,000) as a Platinum member, alongside the likes of Intel, Oracle, Samsung and IBM.
Today, Linux dominates the back-end of the tech world. Servers and AI programs from multiple companies run Linux-based operating systems, and the core kernel of Android is based on the Linux kernel. Even in the consumer market, GNU/Linux and Linux kernel-based operating systems are giving more and more long-time Windows users a breath of fresh air.
As the ZDNet noted: “It’s only on the desktop that Microsoft is still omnipresent.
“Everywhere else – clouds, supercomputers, and servers – it’s a Linux world.”
“Microsoft could have tried to fight it and haemorrhage red-ink, or they could embrace it and profit. They chose to make money.”
Open source basically has become a place where user-driven innovation happens in software. If you go back and think about the industrial revolution (during the early days of auto-mobiles), the winners weren’t the people who made the machine tools. It was Ford and these mass manufacturers who used the machine tools everyday, ultimately perfected the technique of mass manufacturing. To some extent, that’s happening a bit in technology.
Further more, the reason Microsoft was successful in the 90s, and most part of the previous decade, was because of the Microsoft developer network in which developers started developing on the Microsoft platform and then through Microsoft’s infrastructure.
Developers today are heavily using open-source tools and technology and, bluntly, that’s why Microsoft had to open source .NET and why they’re embracing more open source in general. Because open source is where innovation is coming from and is what developers are consuming, it forces vendors to participate.
In the same press release where Microsoft announced their membership in the Linux Foundation, they also announced that Google is now a part of the Microsoft .NET Foundation, a consortium of companies and developers who use and advocate for Microsoft’s in-house .NET framework, which has in recent years painted itself as a cross-platform development powerhouse by going open source.
What it means?
This is only part of the complete 180 that Microsoft has pulled regarding the open-source community in the past few years, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will continue well into the future and you’ll be seeing Microsoft employees’ names in a lot more GitHub entries for prominent open-source projects.
Microsoft will be now be working more closely with Linux and its variants than ever before, Android included. This means a future with more Microsoft apps and services available on Android, enhancements to existing ones, and even a chance that open-source versions of Microsoft’s most powerful and popular software like Office will pop up, though the chances of that happening any time soon are pretty slim.
.NET – as the industry standard cross platform development tool – is powerful enough and certainly widely used enough that we may begin seeing the kind of things that people could normally only do on a PC head to other devices – running Android or Chrome OS for instance – with Google being a part of the .NET foundation.
Processor architecture, as in x86-based PCs and ARM-based phones and tablets, becomes a bit less of an obstacle when a given program’s underpinnings can be found in a multi-platform tool-set. The same goes for Chrome OS; being based on Linux and able to run on both ARM and x86 processors, Chrome OS’ app ecosystem, and thus Chrome’s, will benefit from Google jumping on board with .NET.
Now don’t expect Windows to go open source or to see OK Google on Windows 10, nor think of playing Crysis 3 on Android, not anytime soon.