Why Microsoft is turning into an open-source company
Microsoft now has its own BSD Unix operating system, supports Ubuntu as a subsystem on Windows 10, and recently open-sourced the Xamarin software development kit. This is not Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer's Microsoft.
Before that, Microsoft bought Xamarin, the multi-platform mobile app development program. Xamarin always had a lot of open source in it, but Microsoft has pushed it even further that way by open-sourcing its Xamarin software development kit (SDK), runtime, libraries and command line tools. The Redmond crew's reason for doing this? Building apps twice is once too often. This move makes C#, Microsoft hopes, competitive with Objective-C, Swift, or Java in the mobile space.
Now what runs on the cloud? I'll tell you: It's open-source operating systems and server applications. To quote Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, "It's obvious, if we don't support Linux, we'll be Windows only and that's not practical." He added that one in four virtual machine instances on Azure are Linux and that the number is increasing.
Open source has become the dominant development paradigm. While people used to talk about open source and free software in terms of religion or cancer, depending on which side you were on, the real reason open source has won is that it makes hard financial sense.
And, it's not just software. The barrier between hardware and software is getting erased. As Zemlin commented:
Hardware functions are increasingly being abstracted into software. You can see this in software defined networking (SDN), server virtualization, and the cloud. This has put a lot of pressure on hardware vendors. More and more specialist hardware has been replaced by open source software running on generic x86 boxes.
So it is that almost every technology company, including Microsoft, is shifting over to open source for its development.
Sure, Microsoft will not be open-sourcing Windows or Office. Those have enormous sunk costs and they're still profitable. But for any future projects? It will be all open source, all the time. And, as Windows and Office move to the cloud, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if back in Microsoft datacenters they'll be running on Linux or FreeBSD.