Microsoft has admitted it was wrong about the open-source after the company battled it and Linux for years at the height of its desktop domination. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously branded Linux “cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches” back in 2001.
Microsoft president Brad Smith now believes the company was wrong about open source. “Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally,” said Smith in a recent MIT event. Smith has been at Microsoft for more than 25 years and was one of the company’s senior lawyers during its battles with open-source software.
- Steve Ballmer famously branded Linux “cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches”
“Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally,” he said in a talk about hot computing topics at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
“The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn … that you need to change.”Of course today – with an eye on cloud developers and as the owner of the code-sharing site GitHub – Microsoft approaches open source completely differently, even shipping Windows 10 with a custom Linux kernel for developers who use the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
“Today, Microsoft is the single largest contributor to open-source projects in the world when it comes to businesses,” said Smith. “When we look at GitHub, we see it as the home for open-source development, and we see our responsibility as its steward to make it a secure, productive home for developers.”Smith also said that in 2013 president Obama warned top execs from Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook that they too would soon face scrutiny over privacy.
Obama made the prediction at a roundtable with tech executives who were pushing for surveillance reforms following Edward Snowden’s NSA leak, reminding them they held more data about people than the government did.
Microsoft is even shipping a full Linux kernel in a Windows 10 update that will release later this month, and it moved to the Chromium browser engine for Edge last year. Microsoft is also collaborating with open-source communities to create PowerToys for Windows 10, and the company’s new open design philosophy may mean we’ll see a lot more open-source efforts in Windows in the years to come.