Sunday 5 April 2015

Microsoft says open source Windows is "definitely possible"

Microsoft says open source Windows is "definitely possible"

Windows has been around for a long time, it's made a lot of money, and Microsoft, quite naturally, has been very protective of it. But the times, they are a-changin', and Microsoft may one day have to change with them in ways that once would have been unimaginable.

Windows is still the big dog in the OS marketplace, but alternatives—particularly the open source Linux—are making inroads that can't be ignored. Open source titles are biting into other Microsoft-dominated markets as well; this particular report is being typed on on the open source (and remarkably good) OpenOffice. The shift is significant enough that Mark Russinovich, the CTO of Microsoft Azure, acknowledged at the three-day ChefConf 2015 that "it's definitely possible" that Microsoft could one day make Windows open source.

"It's a new Microsoft," he said. "Every conversation you can imagine about what should we do with our software—open versus not-open versus services—has happened."
Having conversations is a long way from actively planning to make the change, but simply acknowledging that somebody, somewhere, has discussed the possibility is a big change in attitude: As Facebook engineer Phil Dibowitz told Wired, "This wouldn't have happened two years ago." And let us not forget that owners of Windows 7 and 8 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 at no charge for up to a year after its release; that too would have been unthinkable in the past (and pretty much right up to the moment that Microsoft announced it.)
So, open source Windows: Entirely hypothetical, but not off the table. Think it's possible someday?
Open Source Means More Than Free:

The future of tech lies not with for-pay software of the kind traditionally offered by Microsoft. Linux has moved into the massive computing centers that power the internet, and open source OSes such as Google Android are running so many of the world’s mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. The future, even for Microsoft, lies in selling other stuff, including cloud computing services such Microsoft Azure and all sorts of other apps and services that run atop the world’s operating systems.
In open sourcing Windows, Microsoft could expand the use of its OS. Open code is easier to test, easier to shape, easier to build into something else. And if the OS is more widely used, that means a bigger audience for the Microsoft applications that run on Windows.
Earlier this year, Microsoft open sourced a tool called .NET, a popular way of building online applications, and the hope is that this will expand the tool’s reach. Outside coders are even working to move the tool onto Linux machines and Apple Macs. In the end, Russinovich says, this will help Microsoft sell other stuff. “It’s an enabling technology that can get people started on other Microsoft solutions,” he says of .NET. “It lifts them up and makes them available for our other offerings, where otherwise they might not be. If they’re using Linux technologies that we can’t play with, they can’t be a customer of ours.”
What’s more, if Microsoft open sources Windows, the operating system can still be a money maker in its own right. Windows code would be freely available, but so many of the world’s businesses would still need a vendor who can package, distribute, and update the OS. That’s the way Linux works. And Android too. Open source is a complicated thing. It’s not as simple as free versus not-free. When code is open sourced, shared with the world at large, the results are myriad.

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