When Microsoft Went A-Courting

Fans of free and open source software perhaps may be excused if they’ve felt a bit confused over the past few days. Dizziness, headaches and vertigo also have been common.

What strange new ailment is this, you might ask?

Well, it’s no ailment, Linux Girl is glad to report. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s any simpler to remedy.

The cause, it turns out, is none other than the news that Microsoft is open sourcing .Net and also expanding it to run on Linux and Mac OS.

Yes, you heard that right: Steve Ballmer once may have called Linux a “cancer,” but today Redmond has a newfound “love” for Linux that can’t be contained!

It’s making Microsoft behave in strange new ways — and it’s also driving FOSS fans to the blogosphere’s seedy Broken Windows Lounge in greater numbers than ever.

Can tequila help make sense of it all? That’s one of many questions now being investigated.

‘A Chance to Thrive’

“This is big news, and somewhat overdue,” Chris Travers, a blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, told Linux Girl.

Linux Girl

“We live in a world where new programming languages which are open sourced thrive even without being backed by big businesses, and closed source programming languages only survive with help from big businesses,” Travers said. “Bing closed source killed REBOL 2.x,” for example.

“This move has clearly been in the works for some time — a large company like Microsoft does not open source something of this complexity overnight — and I think to some extent Microsoft must have seen the writing on the wall when Sun open sourced the OpenJDK,” he suggested.

Meanwhile, “this gives languages like C# and F# a chance to thrive well beyond their current markets,” Travers said.

‘I Still Don’t Trust You’

“I want to be the first to say, ‘Thank you Microsoft!'” Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone began. “We really appreciate you open sourcing .Net and taking it cross platform. It’s a step in the right direction!

“I still don’t trust you, though,” he added.

“I love that Microsoft is considering open source, but I have seen no movement towards the GPL,” Stone told Linux Girl. “This strikes me as an opportunity to get their software on multiple platforms but tie the developers down to Microsoft.”

Moreover, there are no guarantees that Microsoft will keep .Net open source over the years, he pointed out.

“That means that Microsoft could withdraw and leave all applications developed with the intention of being cross platform legally Windows-only,” he warned. “I won’t put any faith in Microsoft’s commitment, and I’ll always be looking for their sudden but inevitable betrayal.”

‘Watch for Greeks Bearing Gifts’

The move reeks of desperation, Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol suggested.

“They arrived too late,” Ebersol said. “Java already ate the best dishes, and while .Net was a Windows/Microsoft-only thing, Java was everywhere. Good luck trying to be adopted.”

Besides, “I would only believe it if it was GPL’ed to protect the creators of the code,” he added. “A fragile MIT license can be overturned at anytime.”

In any case, “with all the hatred the company generated towards the FLOSS community, they burned the bridge beyond repair,” Ebersol concluded. “The bottom line: Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes — Watch carefully for Greeks bearing gifts…”

‘Like a Cat Loves Mice’

Microsoft loves Linux “like a cat loves mice,” blogger Robert Pogson quipped. “Sure, they will play with */Linux, but they are not our friends.”

What’s happened is that the FOSS and Linux communities have defeated “all the barriers to entry that M$ placed in the way of competition since M$ first made a deal with IBM to supply an OS,” Pogson said. “You bet M$ is trying desperately to ‘make friends’ with ‘the enemy’ now that their position is overrun.

“It’s all good,” he added. “M$ can still cause a lot of trouble by spending $billions foolishly or they can become a normal business and compete on price/performance. That’s not ‘love’ — that’s accepting reality.”

Adapt or Die

The problem for Microsoft is that “open source development packages are starting to get good enough for developers,” offered consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

“At my last job, most of the programmers wanted Eclipse rather than Visual Studio, even though the client software was Windows-only, and I had a slowly increasing number move their development to Linux while using Windows for testing,” Mack recalled.

“Very few people want to be locked into just one platform, so more of the mindshare is moving away from single-platform languages,” he added. “Microsoft must now choose between adapting or dying.”

No Warm Fuzzies Here

Part of what’s driving the move is also that “the various cloud implementations are very heavily Linux, and even on Microsoft’s own Azure cloud, Linux is a strong presence,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien suggested.

“Nadella has made it clear he is taking Microsoft in a cloud direction, so he almost has to do this to even stay in the game,” O’Brien asserted.

That said, however, “I don’t expect Microsoft to be cuddly and nice — they will do whatever they think is in their best corporate interest,” he said.

In fact, “it doesn’t have a thing to do with Linux — it has to do with SaaS and having a CEO that isn’t a whackadoo living in the 90s,” SoylentNews blogger hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

“Nadella is smart and realizes the value of a programming language is not patents or OS exclusivity but in services and support for the language,” hairyfeet explained. “With that in mind, the more platforms the language can be used on, the better, as that adds value to the language and will give you that many more you can sell services to.”

The Fall of an Empire

All in all, if anything is clear, it’s that “Micro$oft’s empire is tumbling down,” said Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C.

“I don’t know or care about why they are lying and saying they love Linux,” he added. “I just hope the GNU/Linux community is smarter than recently (cough, Systemd, cough) and refuses Micro$oft .Net and other infections. GNU/Linux must use only FLOSS tools.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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