Microsoft cozies up to Ubuntu as developers welcome cold day in hell

Microsoft's move to support Ubuntu in a command line says a lot about the company's strategy to court developers even though masses won't notice.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Microsoft move to support Ubuntu and the Bash command line inside Windows 10 won't woo the masses, but feeds the company's developer base and courts more people to its platform. Microsoft's move also delivers good optics for CEO Satya Nadella's overall strategy.

The software giant outlined a lot of items at its Build conference opener--a new Windows 10 update on deck, a Cortana Intelligence Suite and bots designed to make Skype more productive--but the big item was building in Canonical's Ubuntu into Windows 10 (see how it works).

As a refresher, Nadella is trying to forge a company that's all about platforms and productivity. In a memo to employees last year, Nadella said:

Our strategy is to build best-in-class platforms and productivity services for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Our platforms will harmonize the interests of end users, developers and IT better than any competing ecosystem or platform. We will realize our mission and strategy by investing in three interconnected and bold ambitions.

1. Reinvent productivity and business processes

2. Build the intelligent cloud platform

3. Create more personal computing

Microsoft has been executing on that vision ever since Nadella took over. The company's Office platform is as strong if not better on Apple's iOS and Android as it is on Windows. Microsoft has contributed to the open source community on both the hardware and software side of the house. The enterprise business is humming. And Microsoft is really about the Azure cloud platform and the analytics that goes with it these days.

What was missing for Microsoft was a move that caused developers to perk their ears up. Microsoft said it will run Bash on Windows natively. No container. No virtualization. Developers can run Ubuntu on Windows easily. Bash (short for Bourne Again Shell) is standard on OS X and a bunch of Linux distributions. To the average bear, Bash will never be seen. But for developers, Microsoft's move is big. The company is allowing developers to run Windows scripts as well as Bash on one platform.

Developers like Microsoft's move. And if a software vendor can win over new developers it has accomplished a lot. These developers may even start launching Microsoft's universal apps and hit multiple screens. At the very least, Microsoft is following the developer demand since Ubuntu is the most popular Linux flavor on Azure.

Even Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, who has battled Microsoft forever, was stoked. Shuttleworth said: "The native availability of a full Ubuntu environment on Windows, without virtualization or emulation, is a milestone that defies convention."

Microsoft made hell freeze over a bit on Wednesday and developers are likely to notice.

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