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Open Source: On the Wrong Side of History

By Dick Weisinger

There have been more about-face comments in the news lately from Microsoft about the good which Open Source offers.

Steve Ballmer, then CEO at Microsoft, said in 2000 that “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”

And in 2005, Bill Gates suggested that Linux developers are communists.

But 15 years later, Microsoft now can’t seem to push out enough Open Source. Microsoft’s Cloud platform Azure supports both Windows and Linux, but the number of Linux boxes running there is significantly higher.

On GitHub, code base for open source projects and acquired by Microsoft in 2018, Microsoft has two of the top five projects: Visual Studio Code and Microsoft Azure Documentation.

In 2018, Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich said that Microsoft is a “deeply open source company.”

And in 2019, Microsoft Australia CTO Lee Hickin, said that “we’re in an amazing place right now … to really transform the company from being essentially a proprietary software company, to being an open source company.”

In May 2020, Brad Smith, President at Microsoft, said that Microsoft was wrong in the early days and was “on the wrong side of history.”

Smith said that “the good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn … that you need to change.”

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