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Microsoft demonstrates its commitment to open source by joining Linux Foundation

Microsoft has gone through a number of massive changes since it began transitioning from the Windows company to the “cloud-first, mobile-first” productivity solutions company. For one thing, it has gone cross-platform with its applications, supporting iOS and Android along with Windows. For another, it has embraced open source in a way that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

One beneficiary of Microsoft newfound respect for open source software has been Linux, which for the longest time was considered an almost evil movement that went against Microsoft commitment to proprietary software. Now, Microsoft provides significant support for Linux and on Wednesday, the company announced it joined the Linux Foundation as a platinum member, Ars Technica reports.

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Microsoft’s support for Linux is not quite as robust in terms of its productivity solutions — for example, there is no Office 365 for Linux as of yet. Instead, Microsoft aimed more at supporting developers and organizations that use Linux. One example is building a Linux subsystem into Windows 10 that was officially introduced at Microsoft’s Build 2016 event. Another example is supporting SQL Server for Linux and the Docker open source container platform.

By joining the Linux Foundation, Microsoft can hope to meet head-on some of the skepticism that has surrounded its recent support of Linux. As Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, says, “Microsoft is better able to collaborate with the open source community to deliver transformative mobile and cloud experiences to more people.” It is likely that taking a more active role in the Linux community will demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to open source in a way that merely offering software that works with it can accomplish.

In a Microsoft blog post announcing the move, Cloud and Enterprise Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie said, “We want to help developers achieve more and capitalize on the industry’s shift toward cloud-first and mobile-first experiences using the tools and platforms of their choice. 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.”

Clearly, the company recognizes the importance of open source software generally, and Linux specifically, to developers. Highly visible actions like joining the Linux Foundation should work hand in hand with efforts closer to the ground such as improving Hyper-V support for Linux to convince the community Microsoft is serious in its new approach to open source. It is now obvious that being a fan of Microsoft no longer means being anti-Linux.