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Microsoft’s Linux Labors: A Signal of Defeat?

Such has been the joy in the Linux blogosphere over Red Hat’s ascendance to the billion-dollar sphere that it’s been difficult to imagine anything that could possibly top that excitement.

But guess what? A new report from the Linux Foundation recently offered news that many consider equally momentous — and potentially just as encouraging for FOSS.

“For the first time, Microsoft appears on [the] list of companies that are contributing to the Linux kernel,” noted the foundation in a press release last week announcing the latest edition of its report on the state of the Linux kernel.

‘Microsoft Is Working to Adapt’

“Ranking at number 17, the company that once called Linux a ‘cancer’ today is working within the collaborative development model to support its virtualization efforts and its customers,” the announcement adds. “Because Linux has reached a state of ubiquity, in which both the enterprise and mobile computing markets are relying on the operating system, Microsoft is clearly working to adapt.”

Yes, that’s right, folks — Microsoft is now in the top 20 list of the Linux kernel’s biggest contributors. And no, the news didn’t break on April 1!

What does it all mean? That’s been the question on Linux bloggers’ lips at PCWorld, Slashdot, TuxRadar and beyond.

‘It Means I’ve Won’

“Did hell freeze over already??” began Anonymous Coward on Slashdot, for example.

“No. Microsoft just found a way to make money on open source OS,” retorted Soilworker.

Alternatively, “why not?” quipped Eternaldoctorwho. “It looks like this will be the year of the linux desktop!”

Over on TuxRadar, meanwhile, blogger jarubyh quoted none other than Linus Torvalds himself, who once said, “if Microsoft ever does applications for Linux, it means I’ve won.”

‘They Are Recognizing the Movement’

In other words, “Microsoft churning out Free Software simply goes to show that even they are recognizing the movement as important and effective,” jarubyh explained.

“Let’s hope it’s not an ‘Embrace, extend, extinguish’ attempt,” added Linuxrich.

Bloggers’ interpretations were all over the board, so Linux Girl ordered a fresh Peppermint Penguin down at the blogosphere’s seedy Broken Windows Lounge and settled in to learn more.

‘It’s Just Good Business’

“Microsoft is making contributions to the Linux Kernel to provide necessary driver layer shims for running Linux in Hyper-V and running Windows in KVM,” Google+ blogger Dietrich Schmitz told Linux Girl. “Beyond that, their contributions are nil.”

Indeed, “they made changes to allow Linux servers to be hosted on WinServer through their VM software,” added Slashdot blogger hairyfeet. “Not much of a surprise there; this lets their customers run LAMP for webserving while still having AD and GPOs for their internal servers.

“It’s just good business to give your customers what they want,” hairyfeet added.

‘One Doesn’t Have to Be a Fan’

There are “plenty of prebuilt LAMP VMs that are about as trivial to deploy as one can possibly get, so it only makes sense that some of MSFT’s WinServer customers would want to be able to deploy LAMP stacks on their Winserver VMs,” hairyfeet explained.

“One doesn’t have to be a fan of a piece of software to support it — see Apple having iTunes and Safari on windows,” he pointed out.

“While I’m sure they would prefer that people went out and bought $1000 MacBooks to use with their iPod, the reality is that many iPod owners have Windows machines,” hairyfeet added. “It would hurt Apple’s bottom line not to support them, so they do.”

‘A Good Step Forward’

In fact, “Microsoft is adding code to the kernel to help make it work better for Microsoft, and that is exactly how Open Source works,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien suggested.

“Everyone scratches their own itch, and the wonderful thing about Open Source is that we all get to benefit,” he explained. “I hope Microsoft continues to offer code to Open Source.”

Similarly, “most of the work Microsoft is doing has to to with making sure Linux works with their own products, but it is still a good step forward in dealing with them,” opined consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

“It’s good to welcome Microsoft to this great effort,” offered Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

‘That Other OS Will Become Irrelevant’

Last but not least, blogger Robert Pogson took a dark view not just of Microsoft’s intentions, but also of any potential benefits for its bottom line.

“M$’s contribution to Linux is merely to make their OS run in virtual machines on Linux nicely,” he said. “Good luck on that… I think most in IT will figure out that it’s silly to have a good OS run a poor OS.”

Sooner or later, “everyone will have the applications they need in GNU/Linux or on servers, so that other OS will become increasingly irrelevant,” he predicted. “In my life that happened a decade ago; others take more time to see the light.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

3 Comments

  • Microsoft is crafty. Contributes heavily to Linux kernel. Code helps Linux run under Hyper-V. In near future, you will not be able to install and boot Linux under UEFI. But, you can run Linux as a virtual machine on top of Windows. To run a free OS, you must purchase an expensive, proprietary os.

    Brilliant! Bravo Microsoft!

    • Please learn the facts before you speak, otherwise it just makes everyone in the community look bad.

      Here are the facts..Apple doesn’t allow other OSes on their iPad, Ballmer wants to be the head of Apple so bad it hurts, so when MSFT makes a WinPad…it won’t allow other OSes just like Apple!

      In the end with all the crazy talk over WinRT I just have to ask the community…why do you care? Seriously, why? its not like ANY of you will EVER buy a WinRT pad, so its not gonna effect you in the slightest, and from the looks of all the hate coming out over Win 8 its gonna bomb anyway, so why? Why waste time and energy complaining about a soon to fail product you’ll NEVER own?

      The truly sad part is even though the Win 8 fail is gonna make WinVista look like Win95 Linux will pick up NADA, zip zero zilch, and why? Because its itch scratching all the way down and nobody listens! Pulseaudio is terrible, you threw out two stable DEs for beta quality buginess, you still can’t do an upgrade using bog standard hardware without having a SECOND PC ready to Google for fixes to what is broken on the first one when you upgrade, and you expect every user to not only deal with a 70s throwback CLI that too many use as a crutch for "fixes", but you ALSO expect them to have enough programming skill to TWEAK said "fixes" because of the lame driver model being so picky that if the fix is for hardware A, rev B, firmware C and you have hardware A, rev G, firmware J then it won’t work!

      If you would just LISTEN to the consumer, the actual normal people out there, you could gain real share. but instead you delude yourselves into thinking that inside every Suzy the checkout girl there is a Bash programmer just dying to get out and you wonder why people put up with MSFT. They put up with it because the hardware will be a dinosaur before the MSFT OS becomes EOL (XP-2014, Vista-2017, Win 7-2020) and they can use the OS for that entire period with NO CLI, NO broken drivers, and NO fixes! Why is it so hard for the community to accept the consumers are NOT LIKE YOU? Huh? Just give them something they can use already!

      • I tend to agree with LoveyGrace: I don’t trust MS one bit. They have a track record for destroying the competition through whichever means possible. People fail to look at the big picture: have a read of the Halloween Documents. Do you really think they are going to have changed their views on Linux since those documents came to light?
        Doubt it.

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