An Open Source Windows Is ‘Definitely Possible’-Microsoft

An Open Source Windows Is ‘Definitely Possible’-Microsoft

MICROSOFT’S SOFTWARE EMPIRE rests on Windows, the computer operating system that runs so many of the world’s desktop PCs, laptops, phones, and servers. Along with the Office franchise, it generates the majority of the company’s revenues. But one day, the company could “open source” the code that underpins the OS—giving it away for free. So says Mark Russinovich, one of the company’s top engineers.

“It’s definitely possible,” Russinovich says. “It’s a new Microsoft.”

The conference is calledChefConf. Chef is a tool that helps tech geeks setup and operate the many machines needed to drive a website, smartphone app, or some other piece of business software. It’s an open source tool, which means it’s typically used alongside other open source software. When Russinovich asks how many in the audience use nothing but Windows to run their machines, one guy raises his hand—one guy out of several hundred. Mostly, they run the open source Linux operating system.

Open Source Means More Than Free

The future of tech lies not with for-pay software of the kind traditionally offered by Microsoft. Linux has moved into the massive computing centers that power the internet, and open source OSes such as Google Android are running so many of the world’s mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. The future, even for Microsoft, lies in selling other stuff, including cloud computing services such Microsoft Azure and all sorts of other apps and services that run atop the world’s operating systems.

Microsoft applications that run on Windows

Earlier this year, Microsoft open sourced a tool called .NET, a popular way of building online applications, and the hope is that this will expand the tool’s reach. Outside coders are even working to move the tool onto Linux machines and Apple Macs. In the end, Russinovich says, this will help Microsoft sell other stuff. “It’s an enabling technology that can get people started on other Microsoft solutions,” he says of .NET. “It lifts them up and makes them available for our other offerings, where otherwise they might not be. If they’re using Linux technologies that we can’t play with, they can’t be a customer of ours.”

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