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Hold On To Your Seats: Is Microsoft Embracing Linux?

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/2/2016

Microsoft has never had any love for Linux with previous CEO Ballmer likening it to cancer. With new CEO Nadella in place, Microsoft has changed its tune and started to embrace Linux. Read on to find out more!

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    1990s Microsoft – Linux is cancer

    Is Microsoft Embracing Linux? 

    Over its long and storied career, Microsoft has never shown any love for Linux. When Linux was gaining mainstream support in businesses in the early 2000s, Microsoft led several offenses against the nebulous operating system.

    In 2001, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated, “Linux is like a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

    Microsoft has never ported its applications to Linux and even the other platform they do support – Apple’s Mac, only has Office.

    What happened to change their minds?

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    2016 Microsoft – We Love Linux

    There’s one main reason for the change and that is Satya Nadella. Nadella took over for Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft in early 2014. Soon thereafter, Nadella realized that Microsoft couldn’t remain competitive if they kept all of their systems and products closed off from other platforms.

    Although Microsoft has offered Office on Mac since 1998, Microsoft has not really had any other significant pushes onto other platforms until recently. In the last few years, Microsoft has released applications for Android and iOS but these were ports of popular products with niche appeal (who wants to write a Word document on the screen of an iPhone?).

    However, March 2016 marks the date Microsoft changed everything. First up was Microsoft’s “Data Driven" event in New York where they announced they would be offering a Linux version of SQL. This was big news – especially for IT Admins. For decades Admins were taught to know that “SQL" runs on Windows and “MySQL" runs on Linux. Microsoft released another bombshell a few weeks later at their developer focused “Build" conference. Microsoft announced native support for the GNU project’s Bash and would be bringing it to Windows 10.

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    What Does It All Mean?

    If you’re in the Information Technology field or a Linux guru, you’ll know what a bold move this is for Microsoft. If you aren’t, you could think of it like Google offering native apps on the iPhone. So why doesn’t Microsoft keep their systems closed off like they used to? One word: money.

    Microsoft is losing the enterprise and cloud server game. Microsoft still rules the on-premise datacenter, but Linux deployments are growing significantly compared to Windows. According to IDC, Linux is the fastest growing OS with about 18% growth from 2012-2016 while Windows growth was estimated to be 4% during the same timeframe.

    If Microsoft can provide popular tools that are familiar to IT Admins on the platforms they like, it can still be considered a “win" for Microsoft. As for Bash – Microsoft is trying to cater to the Linux crowd. People who use Linux prefer it to closed off systems like Windows. The command line is the command center for a Linux professional. By offering native Linux commands within Windows 10, they may not necessarily woo over the hardcore Linux crowd, but it certainly won’t hurt.

    The next few years will be interesting to see how Nadella continues to shake up some of the core perceptions people have regarding Microsoft.