-A less technical side of the Story
Microsoft and Open Source
Microsoft has made grounds in its decade-long crusade against FOSS. A company which once openly held the belief that the Open Source Software model is breaking the whole IT industry announced a Windows Subsystem for Linux. Since its inception, Microsoft has been extremely careful who gets to see the inside of their moneymaker – Windows. Nothing much has changed even at this point regarding the way they hold the source code for Windows, a sacred mystery.
But the world changed faster than Windows could catch up. Cloud computing and many other infrastructures became the norm and since Linux dominated the cloud and a result dominated the whole internet, Microsoft knew Windows alone would not keep their company going. It’s the cloud game that changes Microsoft’s view on Linux. It is said that one in three Azure Virtual Machines run Linux. Eventually, Microsoft found its way into the world of Open Source Software, becoming a top contributor to the Linux Kernel.
The game was never set on the same course as that of the Linux Foundation or any other organization that believed in Free Software as a concept towards humanity. Well, in fact, Microsoft is still a for-profit Organization, and nobody ever expected Microsoft to simply give away everything they make. That would’ve been the craziest idea to even think of. At a time when everyone is dumping proprietary software for FOSS, Microsoft announced that the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is arriving at their 2017 build of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.
Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)
WSL is a compatibility layer which allows users to run executables made for Linux on Windows, with slight limitations, yet with an efficiency sufficient to get some serious work done. It’s like Wine for Linux but requires less system resources. It’s more of a sandbox rather than a VM.
WSL was announced some time back, but the latest addition became headline news – BASH and some popular Distros coming to Windows Store. How this affects the Open Source community isn’t really a matter of importance. This is an action which is way too small to bring back those who have stepped into the Open Source arena back to Windows.
But there’s a strong and a wise strategy underlying this decision by Microsoft – Preventing Customer Churn.
Microsoft has been suffering from customer attrition for over a decade or so, in drastic amounts. Major organizations switching to Linux has cost Microsoft millions of dollars.
Microsoft has been struggling so hard to win back the European market in the past few years. This worsens when it comes to developers and network administrators since almost all the tools used by hardcore sysadmins and developers are native to Linux or most nerds prefer the open environment Linux and other Unix-like systems offer over the restrictions of Windows. If this were to continue, companies are likely to switch to Linux in no time. Microsoft was aware of this for a long time. And finally, they are offering something that cannot be easily resisted.
At the end
Linux on Windows may have some technical advantages as well. Developers who develop with cross-compatibility in mind will benefit from Linux coming to Windows App Store. Open Source community will have more presence among the IT professionals. The glorious FOSS will serve more of humanity than ever before. And the misconceptions about Linux will soon see an end.
However, It’s still too early to predict if this will improve Microsoft’s Churn rates or if the developers will find this to be a godsend. But one thing for sure, Windows has scored a point.