Sleeping with the Enemy: Why Microsoft Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Linux

I was fairly certain for a long time that Microsoft would never ally itself with Linux. This would be the technological end of days. You understand what I mean

Even Linux’s developer, Linus Torvalds, didn’t anticipate that his tenacious little operating system would be adopted by the largest software company in the world, one that controls the platform that powers the majority of computers on the planet. Given their historical competition, Linux appears to be an unlikely platform for Microsoft to warm up to given its market share of just under 2% of all personal computers but a dominating advantage in the mobile sector (due to Android).

Linux and the industry that Microsoft has dominated have never gotten along. I’m not referring to Linux for Enterprise, which is a completely other beast; I’m talking about this operating system, which has never really had organised consumer support or a clever marketing strategy to persuade people to convert. Anecdotally, we encounter one Linux-based PC for every thousand Windows PCs we see. Its hardware support and installation process aren’t as well-oiled as those of Microsoft or Apple.

Yet here we are, witnessing the deluge of damnation as Satya Nadella, the newest CEO of Microsoft, declares, “Microsoft loves Linux.” However, there are several excellent reasons why Microsoft made this decision, not the least of which is Microsoft’s capacity to be robust and competitive in a rapidly changing technology environment.

Although they may be the market leader in consumer desktops, they are completely losing ground in the mobile space. To further ignite what would have been their funeral pyre, the desktop market is shrinking as a result of the increased popularity of mobile computing.

Why the Change, then?

Microsoft had essentially two options with Windows 10 and the significant shift toward integration with cloud technologies and mobile data syncing. Microsoft has two options: either they keep their ecosystem closed and invest billions in trying to overtake competitors and gain a larger share of the mobile market (Windows Mobile devices are a very distant third place when compared to Android and Apple), luring users to unify their computers and mobile devices on Microsoft, or they start to embrace competing platforms and permit Windows technology to open up and work well with others.

Nadella is aware that no one firm would be able to completely dominate all markets and industry verticals in the future of technology platform unification. Instead, collaboration amongst various technological platforms and the IT giants with the best collaborative skills will continue to hold the top spots. Anyone who pays close attention to technology should not be surprised by the adoption of Linux.

For many years, Microsoft has been indicating this change. Microsoft’s Office line was made available for iOS 8 in 2013. The ability to launch RemoteApp programmes from iOS via the Remote Desktop app is just one of the smaller apps that have been released to assist Apple devices interface with Windows and Windows Server platform-based technology. All of this served only to hype up the true prize: Linux integration.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has transformed into a cloud and services provider that also happens to produce the most popular consumer operating system. Here, Linux does not contend with them. Beyond the aforementioned mobile industry, Linux is the preferred platform for the infrastructure market.

In the past, Linux has performed significantly better at managing memory and processing than Windows, and whole families of scalable infrastructure products and platforms, including OpenStack and Docker, have been created on top of Linux. Microsoft must enter this industry immediately. They’ve made an effort to do this by using Microsoft Hyper-V to compete in the virtualization market against firms like VMware, but their market share has remained tiny, despite expanding.

Microsoft has started creating its best and most substantial product offerings for Linux independently of the Windows ecosystem in response to this requirement. Linux native support for Microsoft SQL, their database engine and platform, is currently being developed. Unquestionably, this is among Microsoft’s best actions. There are numerous varieties of SQL, and Microsoft has created the greatest administration and tool system available.

So what should an infrastructure manager do when the developers require a Microsoft SQL Platform to build their databases but the platform is all Linux? Alongside the Linux servers, they ultimately virtualize (or install to bare metal) instances of Windows. No longer! The infrastructure administrators are delighted that everything is uniform now that Microsoft SQL and its beautiful suite of tools are available natively in Linux, and the developers are thrilled that they can continue to use the SQL they love and watch it perform better (hopefully) in a Linux environment.

But there’s more! Microsoft has announced that Bash Shell, a Linux command-line interface, will be made available for Windows 10. This suggests that Microsoft is seeking to integrate Linux and Windows rather than merely fostering collaboration between the two platforms. It is now hard to argue that Microsoft is expressing their support for Linux as a purely commercial strategy or as a symbolic nod to collaboration. It’s major news that they’re integrating Linux into the core of their most well-known flagship product.

However, there’s still more! In fact, Microsoft has created their own Linux distribution, which is operating on some of the hardware powering their cloud platform. In the past, Microsoft’s End User License Agreements (EULA) prohibited the use of Windows and Linux concurrently, and the company even filed lawsuits against Linux suppliers and distributors over intellectual property and patent issues.

This is a business that has fought tenaciously to dominate every market it can, going so far as to create its own operating system in order to take on Linux head-on. It almost seems weird to see them now publicly supporting Linux and allowing for full product integration.

What does this ultimately imply for the future? Several things, in truth.

When Microsoft reveals that Windows 11 or 12—or whatever they decide to call it—will be based on Linux rather of the standard Windows kernel, that will be the biggest revelation. This is tested and practised through the integration of the Bash shell.

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