Microsoft joins old rival Linux Foundation, 15 years after former CEO called it ‘cancer’

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On Tuesday, Microsoft, the software giant that has built its empire on closed-source proprietary software, is joining the Linux Foundation. 10 years ago, that would have seemed unimaginable, but Microsoft has been steadily embracing open source recently.

It is now spending $500,000 (£400,000) to join the Linux Foundation as a high-paying Platinum member, which promotes the open-source OS amongst businesses and developers.

Other platinum members include companies such as Google, Facebook and Samsung.

Microsoft and Linux have not always seen to eye to eye. In 2001, then Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said in a widely-reported newspaper interview: “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”

However, the company’s priorities have changed over the last 15 years and under its new leader Satya Nadella. Much of its current focus is on the cloud, in particular the Azure online storage and data processing services it sells to other organisations.


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As the tech blog ZDNet noted: “It’s only on the desktop that Microsoft is still omnipresent.”

“Everywhere else – clouds, supercomputers, and servers – it’s a Linux world.”

“Microsoft could have tried to fight it and haemorrhage red-ink, or they could embrace it and profit. They chose to make money.”

Microsoft said that it wanted to help developers achieve more and capitalise on the industry’s shift towards cloud-first and mobile-first experiences.

“By collaborating with the community to provide open, flexible and intelligent tools and cloud services, we’re helping every developer deliver unprecedented levels of innovation,” said Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said: “Microsoft has grown and matured in its use of and contributions to open-source technology.

“Membership is an important step for Microsoft, but also for the open-source community at large, which stands to benefit from the company’s expanding range of contributions.”



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