Why has Microsoft done all this? Because, in two words: "Linux won".
It's only on the desktop that Microsoft is still omnipresent. Windows isn't even the most popular end-user operating system. That honor goes to Android.
Everywhere else -- clouds, supercomputers, and servers -- it's a Linux world. Microsoft could have tried to fight it and hemorrhage red-ink, or they could embrace it and profit. They chose to make money.
Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive VP of Cloud and Enterprise Group, knows what I'm talking about. In a statement, he said: "As a cloud platform company we aim to help developers achieve more using the platforms and languages they know. The Linux Foundation is home not only to Linux, but many of the community's most innovative open-source projects. We are excited to join The Linux Foundation and partner with the community to help developers capitalize on the shift to intelligent cloud and mobile experiences."
This isn't Microsoft's first move in working with the industry's leading Linux group. Microsoft already contributes to several Linux Foundation projects, including the Node.js Foundation, OpenDaylight, Open Container Initiative, R Consortium, and Open API Initiative.
I asked Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, if he were surprised that Microsoft had made the jump to joining the Foundation. He replied:
"Our philosophy is that open source should be a big tent where anyone can contribute.
There was a time where proprietary versus open source was a winner-take-all proposition, but that's in the past. Open source is now a major force in software development, and the industry realizes you can make yourself better, while also making others better at the same time. Microsoft has been embracing open source increasingly for the better part of a decade, including contributing to and supporting many Linux Foundation projects, so their decision to take the next step and become a Linux Foundation member didn't come as a surprise to us.
Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open-source technology. The company has become an enthusiastic supporter of Linux and of open source and a very active member of many important projects. Membership is an important step for Microsoft, but also for the open-source community at large, which stands to benefit from the company's expanding range of contributions."