In a stunning change of position today Microsoft announced that it would allow open-source Linux software to work with Windows. What’s more, Microsoft even claimed that it will provide the support and technology necessary to achieve this end. This marks the company’s second open-source partnership this week, which signals an effort by Microsoft to inform an ever-growing Linux user base that the two platforms can co-exist, particularly in the server market where Linux is most competitive against the Redmond giant. For those who are unfamiliar with Linux, it is open-source software, which means developers are able to share code with one another and anyone may contribute to the project. Most Linux distributions are free, in the dual-sense of no cost and of code without restrictions, with a few commercial Linux companies that make money by offering custom features, maintenance and technical support.
I think this collaboration of Microsoft Windows and SuSe Linux represents a clear victory for the open-source community. For years individuals from Microsoft, particularly top-level executives, have done nothing but bad-mouth Linux, and have made threats to “crush it.” Linux had always lagged behind Windows in the consumer desktop environment, due to its traditionally difficult learning curve. However, certain flavors of Linux such as Suse and Ubuntu have come a long way in making the Linux desktop easier for novice Windows users. In terms of the server market, Linux has long been a competitor to Microsoft, as many large enterprises such as IBM have realized the power and reliability of Linux over Windows in a corporate backend environment. It seems clear that Microsoft is doing this simply as an attempt to prevent further losses in market share. Linux has slowly grown stronger over the years and it seems like the time has finally arrived when Microsoft has got to take it seriously.