Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Microsoft releases code to Linux. Why that?

No, the hell doesn't freeze and pigs don't fly. But Microsoft released source code to the Linux open source community. Earnestly.
Well, old news, you might say. Microsoft did release parts of their code using (more or less real) open source licenses and started doing so years ago. They released code under the MS Public/Reciprocal License (Ms-PL/Ms-RL). They even released code for their Web Sandbox Source under the Apache 2.0 license.
So what is different?
According to Microsofts speaksman Tom Hanrahan it is the first time Microsoft contributes source code for inclusion in the Linux source tree. It's not that they never, ever before commited code to the strict GPL. The real news is that they commited it directly to Linux, the operating system that competes more than well in server technologies Microsoft wants to get and hold a grip on. And trying to be conform with Linus Torvalds, Microsoft released the code under the GPLv2 - notGPLv3.
And why would Microsoft put source under GPL for their competitor?
Microsoft is business and the definition of "business" - excuse my sarcastic but nevertheless realistic view - is to earn money. As a corporation you have to bill something to earn something to pay something (e.g. your own bills and employees). Simple as that. So they try to bode themselves well from GPLing.
Looking behind the gifted 20.000 lines of code it is not that difficult to find out why they did it, at least if one looks at the purpose the source-gift should fulfill: Microsoft is releasing three device drivers for Linux which should enhance the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V.
That's the news? Um, yeah, any afterthoughts?
Yes, there are some and they - obviously/hopefully - have to do with a kind of change of what Microsoft does and how they behaved lately. A new OS is comming (Windows 7) where they finally listened to the users and firstly, radically and totally changed their programming paradigms to implement it. And bing is doing well (actually only because they have a huge advertising budget, as I think, but time will tell).
Not that Microsoft changed from ground to bottom but it seems like a little peace of white flag (a very, very little piece in their own manor, - "corporation" - you remember?) and that it is not only about fighting (FUDing) anyone totally down to the ground anymore. Not even Microsoft can live without an eco-system surrounding them. Perhaps, and for god's sake, they understood. At least a little, little bit.
Hope so.

[Update] Read http://www.virtualization.info/2009/07/microsoft-releases-hyper-v-linux.html, it's a more technical approach but reveals another view on the topic.

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