What Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation means for us

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Recently, the Linux foundation made an announcement that shocked the computing world. It was a move that was either a surprising sign of progress or a cynical attempt to garner some good PR. Either way, Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member. This means that they get a spot on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, in exchange for a pledge to support the advancement of open-source software.

There was a time when it was unthinkable. But Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation (Image credits: The Verge)
There was a time when it was unthinkable. But Microsoft has joined the Linux Foundation (Image credits: The Verge)

Some in the open-source community are worried at the prospect of closed-source giants Microsoft being able to make executive decisions regarding the future of commercial-grade open-source software standards. Yet, Microsoft had long been moving towards this conclusion under the direction of new CEO, Satya Nadella. The organisation has a long history of, well, hostility to the idea of open-source software. But the past few years has seen Microsoft become one of the biggest open-source contributors around, having established itself as a big contributor to several Linux Foundation projects. It has also shown other demonstrations of their willingness to go open-source, such as collaborations with FreeBSD and a partnership with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10.

What does the fact that these two big software giants have promised to co-operate mean for us, the end-users? Quite a lot, and most of it, for a change, is good.

Microsoft has made great strides in recent times to supporting open-source software (Image credits: Microsoft)
Microsoft has made great strides in recent times to supporting open-source software (Image credits: Microsoft)

It will eventually mean greater support for Microsoft closed-source software on *nix environments without the need for an OS emulator or other third-party software, and vice versa. Although there are currently no known plans to implement such large-scale cross-platform compatibility, moves towards it are being made. Some examples we’ve seen are with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and their SQL Server database management software both being slated to become compatible with Linux.

This, in turn, means big strides forward in just about every computer science-related field. Furthermore, for gamers, this means that a Linux computer will eventually be able to use the DirectX API to process video and multimedia. And this will likely help thrust Linux gaming into the limelight.

Should Micrsoft bring its DirectX API to Linux, it could help thrust Linux gaming into the limelight
Should Micrsoft bring its DirectX API to Linux, it could help thrust Linux gaming into the limelight (Image credits: PCWorld)

The planned availability of Azure and SQL Server will allow you to maintain databases and utilise cloud computing. This would be a one-two punch of functionality that will doubtless prove immensely useful to businesses in cutting costs, as they will no longer have to restrict themselves to limited Windows OS in order to make use of Azure and SQL Server. On the other side of the fence, the inclusion of Linux’s Bash shell in Windows 10 means you can run Linux software directly on Windows – not using a virtual machine, but utilising all of the hardware capability of your system.

All of this would have been considered nigh-on impossible even as recently as five years ago.

Finally, to the cynics and sceptics, I’d like to say that there may be several underlying factors that went into the creation of this partnership. Some of these factors would be the changing commercial landscape, the changing leadership and direction of Microsoft, and more .At the end of the day, it’s simply two organisations putting their collective heads together in the spirit of cooperation, and that is something we should all be able to get behind.

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