To say that Microsoft and Linux have had a chequered relationship in the past is something of an understatement.
Around 15 years ago CEO Steve Ballmer referred to Linux as “a cancer that attaches itself, in an intellectual proper sense, to everything it touches”.
Back in the late 90s when Microsoft was being hauled in front of the US Department Of Justice over accusations of trying to secure a monopoly in the OS market, the existence of Linux was one of the software giant’s arguments in its antitrust defence (it didn’t work, because Linux was tiny in terms of marketshare then).
In recent years, Microsoft has been more conciliatory towards the free and open source software community, but frankly the news that the “beast of Redmond” has decided to join the Linux Foundation as a platinum member still comes as a shock. This means that the former bastion to licensed software will be flinging a minimum of $500,000 to open source development and projects on an annual basis. This is a move that, back in the days of Ballmer and Bill Gates would have been laughed out of a boardroom if it had been proposed.
In reality, however, the move shouldn’t come as a massive surprise. Under current CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has begun embracing the idea of open source development and working with partners that, in the past, would’ve been unthinkable. As The Verge has pointed out, today Microsoft is the top listed company with the most open source contributors on Github.
Furthermore, Ars Technica notes that Microsoft has been carrying on a rather mutually beneficial with Linux for quite some time now.
The Linux Foundation has welcomed Microsoft’s membership with open arms.
“Microsoft is better able to collaborate with the open source community to deliver transformative mobile and cloud experiences to more people,” said executive director of the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin.
Just don’t expect Linux Torvalds to be posting screenies from a Windows desktop any time soon.