Microsoft says it has come a long way since 'that' open source comment

Microsoft Australia's CTO told Red Hat Forum his company is committed to open source, and that the fundamental mission driven by Satya Nadella is best achieved through democratisation.

Microsoft has copped a lot of flack over comments it has made regarding open source in the past; with one in particular made by its former CEO Steve Ballmer back in 2002 that described Linux and the General Public License as cancers.

Highlighting the irony that Microsoft was presenting during Red Hat Forum 2019 in Melbourne on Tuesday, Redmond's Australian CTO Lee Hickin said the company has come a long way since those comments were made.

"I recognise the irony of Microsoft here at an open source community event. I'm really proud to do that, and I'm humbled and privileged that we can be on the stage with Red Hat to share our story," Hickin said.

See also: IBM's big deal for Red Hat gives it a chance to reshape open source (TechRepublic)

Hickin has been with Microsoft on and off since 2005, saying that he's seen three leaders and three very different companies.

"We're in an amazing place right now with a leader like Satya who really understands what it means to think about where we need to be for our customers, to really transform the company from being essentially the proprietary software company, to being an open source company," he said.

"And I say that with my hand on my heart in a very serious way: We are an open source company, we are committed to open source, we're committed to Red Hat, and we're committed to continuing our engagement and our support to a broad open source community through a range of technologies, not least of which GitHub is one."

Hickin touched on the mission that Satya Nadela set for Microsoft when he joined as CEO, which was to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

"We try to put that in context of how we, or at least I, internalise that thinking, which is [that] it's about democratising access. As a company, our vision is to democratise access to technology so that the rich power of AI, of data platforms, of services, and tools, and technologies -- whether they be ours, our competitors, our partners, open source, non-open source -- making sure that all of that technology is available to everybody in the best, most efficient, most cost effective way," he said.

"So that democratisation, that ability, we want to give our customers the tools they need to make them where they are.

"I think it's very aligned with how Red Hat operates."

While Hickin said the suite of tools that are currently available under Microsoft would have been previously "unthinkable", he said he's proud to say they now exist.

According to Hickin, more than 50% of what goes into Azure is from open source partners.

"We are not the proprietary Windows company; we are the open source cloud that has a range of services across a whole bunch of tools and technologies," he said. "Azure is an open source platform and open source stack."

Asha Barbaschow travelled to Red Hat Forum as a guest of Red Hat.

RELATED COVERAGE