Open source has won, and Microsoft has surrendered

Many Linux users are ticked off and anxious about Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation. They are missing the real significance of that move.

Many Linux fans greeted the news that Microsoft is joining the Linux Foundation with anxiety-fueled anger.

For example, spooling through Reddit and my Google+ comment feed, I found these sorts of reactions:

“This will destroy Linux.”

“Trump is elected president and now this…”

“Do people not realize that Microsoft has a strong economic incentive to see Linux fail? … That blows my f***ing mind that anything good can ever come out of this.”

“That’s the, ‘embrace’ part. Next is, ‘extend.’ [And, then extinguish]”

I asked Roy Schestowitz, editor of TechRights, what he thought about the deal. He told me:

I have covered Microsoft’s interference with FOSS [free and open-source software] for over a decade and carefully studied even pertinent antitrust documents. I know the company’s way of thinking when it comes to undermining their competition
The pattern of embrace and extend (to extinguish) — all this while leveraging software patents to make Linux a Microsoft cash cow or compel OEMs to preinstall privacy-hostile Microsoft software/apps with proprietary formats (lockin) — never ended. What I see in the Linux Foundation right now is what I saw in Nokia 5 years ago and in Novell 10 years ago — the very thing that motivated me to start BoycottNovell, a site that has just turned 10 with nearly 22,000 blog posts. It is a saddening day because it’s a culmination, after years of Microsoft ‘micro’ payments to the Linux Foundation (e.g. event sponsorship in exchange for keynote positions), which will have Microsoft shoved down the throats of GNU/Linux proponents and give an illusion of peace when there is none, not just on the patent front but also other fronts (see what Microsoft’s partner Accenture is doing in Munich right now).

He does an excellent job of summing up why many Linux people are having fits about Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation. I’ve been covering Linux since the beginning, 25 years ago, and I can add to his list Microsoft’s sponsoring SCO’s Linux attacks. Let’s face it: Microsoft didn’t earn its nickname, “The Evil Empire” for nothing.

Microsoft was scared of Linux for years. And it did what any frightened animal does: It attacked and attacked and attacked.

But that was then. This is now.

Where I disagree with Schestowitz and company is I believe Microsoft has fundamentally changed. Sure, Microsoft is still collecting money for its bogus Android/Linux patents. That won’t stop. Microsoft is a public company, and it makes more money from Android than it ever did from its own Microsoft mobile operating systems. And, yes, Microsoft still wants you to buy Windows for your desktop.

But — and this is a big one — neither of those are going to grow revenue. Microsoft’s future is in servers, services and the cloud. And what do all those run on? Ding! Ding! Ding! Open source and Linux.

Take a good hard look at Microsoft’s last quarter. Azure’s revenue grew by 116% year over year. Microsoft’s profit margin from its cloud platform? A whopping 49%.

Guess what. Four out of 10 server instances running on Azure are Linux. Their numbers are increasing by leaps and bounds. The foundation may be Windows Server, but the building is Linux.

Wim Coekaerts, until recently corporate vice president of Microsoft Enterprise Open Source Group, recently told me, “Satya [Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO] is very customer-centric. If [our customers] run Linux, and they often do, we want to make them happy. We have to play in an open, heterogeneous world.” He added, “Microsoft actually uses a lot of Linux in-house. It’s no longer everything has to be run on Windows internally.” Microsoft is doing this, he said, because “we’re solving business problems and we’re very pragmatic.”

There you have the keys to why it’s different this time. I can cite dozens of examples of how Microsoft is supporting one open-source project or another. That’s the specific of the real Microsoft change.

Microsoft realizes that Linux and open-source software have won. It knows that its customers want it, and it wants to make them happy. It’s really that simple.

Embrace, extend and extinguish worked for Microsoft when it took over the Internet browser market. It Butthe Web was just coming together and there were no standards. Linux, on the other hand, is long established. Open source, by its very nature, makes it easy to extend software but nigh on impossible to extinguish it.

No, Microsoft had two choices. It could try things the same old way — the way that many Linux fans are sure it’s still doing. Or it could change its ways and work with Linux and open-source software.

This isn’t Bill Gates’ or Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft. They were all about total market domination. This is Nadella’s Microsoft, and he wants to work with others. As Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, told me, “Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open-source technology. The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects.”

Today, believe it or not, we’re no longer caught in a war between proprietary and open-source software. Open source has won, and Microsoft wants to be on the winning side.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags open sourceMicrosoft

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?