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  • TechRepublic: "Why Microsoft's Linux love affair was inevitable"

    Posted on Ascaris Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Non-Windows operating systems Linux – all distros TechRepublic: "Why Microsoft's Linux love affair was inevitable"

    This topic contains 14 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Paul T 4 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    • #1729166 Reply

      Ascaris
      AskWoody_MVP

      This article is half a year old now, but I haven’t seen it before now, and it still provides a good counterpoint to the “Oh no, Windows gets a Linux kernel” line of thought.

      TechRepublic: Why Microsoft’s Linux love affair was inevitable

      Matt Asay makes some interesting points in that article.   He notes that the most popular operating system in the Microsoft Azure cloud is not Windows, but Linux.  In the days of yore, Microsoft would have forced devs to use Windows for any Microsoft cloud product, but with competitors like Amazon’s AWS that have no such restriction, that would be a serious mistake.

      Mr. Asay writes:

      Microsoft pushing MS-DOS to GitHub is nice, but Microsoft embracing a wide array of open source software on Azure is critical. It’s what developers demand, and it’s turning into a big business for Microsoft, though initially it must have been terrifying for the company to unmoor itself from a complete dependence on a Microsoft-only cloud.

      The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and MS is rolling in cash now, as recent headlines about their good fortunes demonstrate.  It all has to do with the cloud, and the cloud, even in Microsoft’s world, runs mainly on Linux.

      Here’s where I stop paraphrasing the article and opine as myself.

      It’s clear that the cloud is the main MS product now, not Windows.  What would be the benefit in extinguishing Linux to promote Windows?  From the way they use their own customers as beta testers to the closure of the Windows department, it’s quite clear that Windows has been demoted from its former status as the core Microsoft product.  For people using Windows, particularly customers, that isn’t a good thing at all, but it’s an apt demonstration of Microsoft’s priorities.  Sorry, Windows users, but Microsoft just isn’t that “into” you anymore.

      For MS to try to ruin Linux now to try to push its users to Windows, at a time when it has clearly lost interest in being “the Windows company,” and when it is making a fortune from Linux with its cloud services, simply doesn’t make any sense, even if it were possible to EEE GPL’d code that they don’t control.  If they extend the Linux kernel, the extensions will be subject to the “cancer” that is the GPL, as Ballmer put it, which is by design of the GPL.  These extensions will not be proprietary, but open source, and there’s no way to unring that bell once that code is out there.  The most MS could succeed in by trying EEE on Linux would be to convince a lot of people currently paying them for Azure services that MS cannot be trusted, and with a tough competitor just waiting to snatch up the disgruntled ex-Azure customers.

      When most of Microsoft’s Azure customers use Linux, it makes sense for MS to make life as easy and comfortable for them, even in corporate environments where the higher-ups demand Windows without understanding what that means with regards to the developers working on their Linux-based Azure stuff.  It’s not about making Windows able to run desktop Linux software… why would they even bother?   There’s Windows software for everything, and Windows can already use Windows software.

      For people whose view of Microsoft is as an OS provider, it’s easy to think that they see Linux as a Microsoft competitor, but it really isn’t, not now at least.  Other providers of cloud services are the competitors!  Linux, like Windows, is merely the means to an end for MS, and that’s making money in the cloud.  Linux users and devs are not the users of a competitor’s product to be punished for their insolence, but potential customers, if they’re not cloud customers already.

      Why would MS want to ruin the thing that is fueling their huge cloud profits to try to prop up an old product that they clearly don’t even care about anymore?

      This isn’t to say I trust Microsoft, or that I like in any way what they have done to the OS I used and liked for more than 25 years.  If anything would be the target for EEE at this point in time, it would be Amazon (AWS), and I don’t see that happening.

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    • #1729994 Reply

      Elly
      AskWoody MVP

      Linux users and devs are not the users of a competitor’s product to be punished for their insolence, but potential customers, if they’re not cloud customers already.

      It is somewhat disconcerting, and also comforting, to think that Microsoft is interested in Linux because they see potential customers… but who could look at Microsoft’s treatment of the loyal operating system customers and see them as a business they would want to purchase products or services from?

      It is more telling to see how those in power treat those with less power, than to spend time watching those lovely videos that Microsoft puts out. We all want the goodies…. but a long term, loyal partnership is not developed by turning once loyal and happy customers into guinea pigs, while harvesting their data to develop AI products. Obviously the ‘little people’ are not valued and respected by Microsoft management… and they dumped us, for a bigger money grab. That is way more important to notice, than how their profits are rising, when evaluating whether to do business with them.

       

      Win 7 Home, 64 bit, Group B

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      • #1734461 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        It is more telling to see how those in power treat those with less power, than to spend time watching those lovely videos that Microsoft puts out. We all want the goodies…. but a long term, loyal partnership is not developed by turning once loyal and happy customers into guinea pigs, while harvesting their data to develop AI products

        Absolutely!  There was a time where Microsoft was thought of more as a consumer goods company than a truly enterprise-ready one, and during that time, people like us were helping Microsoft to become what it is today, by using (and paying for) Microsoft software, and in turn creating a market for third-party Windows software.  Microsoft is where it is today because of that support, but we’re nothing but beta testers who, instead of being paid for their services, instead pay Microsoft to provide Microsoft with our services, involuntarily.

        We were once loyal and happy customers, but it’s clear that MS is no longer interested in that relationship.  For whom are we providing the beta-testing services?  Quite obviously, it’s the enterprise users of Windows.  Microsoft representatives have come right out and said so in the past.  We’re clearly not customers any more, but a resource to be exploited.  Valued customers don’t get treated as consumers have been since Windows 10 arrived.

        It’s a thin line MS appears to be trying to walk.  Alienate the consumer-level people by monetizing them mercilessly and forcing them into beta-testing duty, while providing the benefits of that arrangement to enterprise customers, hoping that there’s no crossover between the two (like corporate executives or IT people who also use Windows at home).

        What MS appears to forget, or at least is not concerned about, is this: Every corporate decision maker in the world is also a human being with a personal life, and is a home-level consumer within that context.  Some percentage of those people will use PCs in the home environment (including Macs), and if they do, there’s a 90% chance they use Windows on them.  MS is betting either that these decision-makers are too small in number to make any difference, or else that they will compartmentalize their work self and their personal self, not letting the shabby treatment of home users influence whether they endorse or reject Microsoft enterprise products at work.

        Personally, I think it’s foolish to think that you can alienate consumers without thinking it will also affect the enterprise, but it hasn’t shown in the numbers so far.  While anyone can use cloud services, and anyone that wishes to do so is a potential customer for Microsoft, it’s not consumers that MS sees as its main customers for the cloud.  The average home user won’t have any use for Azure, and again, MS seems to be banking on the two groups not crossing over in terms of perception of Microsoft.

        So, lest anyone believe that I’m of the opinion that there really is a new MS that is kinder and gentler than the old Microsoft, let it be said: There isn’t a new “nice” Microsoft.  MS is being “nice” to Linux because there’s money in it, not because that’s just how Microsoft is these days.  In the past, Microsoft was motivated by the desire for profit and a lack of concern for whom it hurts in the process, and now… well, it’s the same thing.

        I don’t expect a corporation to understand any concepts like loyalty to those who made you into what you are or anything like that, but I do expect them to understand that treating users of your products shabbily will reflect on who you are as a company.  I still think treating people right is good business, but what do I know?

        I suppose a lot of it hinges on the perceived behavior of the competitors… after all, if you need cloud services and all of the cloud services are being offered by a bunch of sharks, then you just have to take your chances.

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    • #1730123 Reply

      OscarCP
      AskWoody Plus

      Ascaris, Thank you for your excellent commentary, which I find most illuminating and convincing.

      I have a small question about one of the points you make:

      ”  If they extend the Linux kernel, the extensions will be subject to the “cancer” that is the GPL, as Ballmer put it, which is by design of the GPL.  These extensions will not be proprietary, but open source, and there’s no way to unring that bell once that code is out there.  ”

      My own understanding of the GPL in this particular respect is that all that is received under its terms, in this case the Linux kernel, cannot be made proprietary and must be passed on, still subject to that GPL condition, as part of any product one builds using it as a component, to all those one gives the product, regardless of whether this is given for free or for a price. But the components one adds to something received under the GPL terms, in this case to the kernel, if one chooses not to release them under the GPL terms, then they remain one’s property. So, why then,  this principle, at least as I understand it, does not seem to apply here?

      Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group B & macOS + Linux (Mint) => Win7 Group W(?) + Mac&Lx

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      • #1730151 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        Depends on what “extension” means in this case.

        It is very much possible to write closed-source device drivers and such for Linux, but these will always have to remain separate add-on parts because of the different licensing. Case in point, graphics drivers…

        Anything that goes into the kernel package itself and is released / distributed must be GPL-compatible. But if you only write custom code for your internal production servers and what you make never gets released or distributed, the GPL problem doesn’t apply.

        Oh well. There’s approximately two or three things remaining that we’d need to start a full migration of Office 365 clients from Windows to Linux. Those are, 1) an easy-to-use OneDrive for Business client (with 2-way sync for OneDrive and SharePoint), 2) Azure Information Protection client functionality, and maybe 3) cloud-based user authentication.

        That last one at least does exist, but for Azure cloud servers only… oh and it’s an application-level component, so no GPL-related problems there.

        Would *help* if there was a version of MS Office too, but LibreOffice is good enough for 95% of the tasks (and for some tasks better than MS Office).

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    • #1733875 Reply

      Lugh
      AskWoody_MVP

      This is not an either/or situation. MS isn’t dropping Win or any other product sector just because cloud is doing well.

      What’s happening is that the whole tech show is on or headed for the cloud. Physical and local is an immensely inefficient way of doing things, in the same way that growing your own food is hugely inefficient in the era of global trade.

      If MS did not partake in the cloud, that’s when to be worried about Win’s future—since MS wouldn’t survive for long. That said, Windows’ usage should decline over time as local becomes less commonplace.

      Lugh.
      ~
      Alienware Aurora R6; Win10 Home x64 1803; Office 365 x32
      i7-7700; GeForce GTX 1060; 16GB DDR4 2400; 1TB SSD, 256GB SSD, 4TB HD

      • #1734788 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        This is not an either/or situation. MS isn’t dropping Win or any other product sector just because cloud is doing well.

        They’re not dropping Windows yet, since there’s still that 90% market share that has yet to be liquidated, but it’s not hard to see how they would be looking at the numbers.  When 10% of their profit (and falling) takes 35% of their employee resources, it looks like a bad use of those resources.  I have little doubt that somewhere in Redmond, there’s a red circle on a calendar somewhere that highlights the date when they predict Windows will no longer turn a profit, but be merely a break-even proposition.

        That’s not to say I think they will drop Windows… just Windows as we’ve known it.  After seeing what they’ve done with Edge, I think there’s more than idle talk about doing the same with Windows itself, with the product known as Windows simply being a desktop environment and compatibility layer for Linux.   Why do all the hard work keeping a whole proprietary kernel stable and up to date when there’s a free one they can use that already is kept updated by someone else?  It seems farfetched given Microsoft’s past, but then it would have seemed equally so to suggest they would adopt an open-source browser and slap their own front-end on it during the browser wars.

        The WINE devs have struggled to provide a working compatibility layer to allow Windows programs to run on Linux, but that’s a natural (and intentional) outgrowth of proprietary code that is deliberately not well documented.  MS did not want you to be able to run Windows software without Windows!

        With all that MS knows about how Windows works, and with Microsoft’s resources, they could easily have Windows software running on the Linux kernel better than WINE has managed to accomplish in decades.  Like the Windows x86 on ARM compatibility layer MS wrote, it would only have to be a stopgap measure to use until the entire Windows using public could be moved toward something else.  It was supposed to be UWP, but with that faltering, who knows?

        MS is making a lot of investments in Linux, and it’s pretty clear to me that they’re not doing it so they can EEE Linux.  The GPL prevents that, by design.  The compatibility with Linux for Azure could be one reason, but they already have that now. All we can do is guess at this point, but what seems obvious to me is that the the fears of MS EEEing Linux are missing the mark.

        What’s happening is that the whole tech show is on or headed for the cloud. Physical and local is an immensely inefficient way of doing things, in the same way that growing your own food is hugely inefficient in the era of global trade.

        So they say, but it wasn’t that long ago that the distributed computing model was the latest, greatest thing, and the centralized computing model with relatively dumb (or thin) clients was the old thing whose time had come and gone. We’ve been using “the cloud” since before it was called “the cloud,” and simply giving it a silly name doesn’t change anything.  Whatever platitudes are given about how it’s scalable and has all kinds of neat APIs that differentiate it from any previous version of the client/server model, when it comes right down to it, it’s still your data on someone else’s computer, dependent on their whims, their security procedures, their conscientiousness, and their own profit motive.

        While keeping your company’s proprietary data safe and accessible may well be the single most important thing as far as IT goes for your company, to the cloud provider, it’s only as important as it would be to avoid potential lawsuits and bad press.  If you lose control of that data, you lose everything, so the motive to not do so is great.  If MS loses control of your data, it’s a black eye, but they have a lot of other customers, and they will be fine.

        Maybe they’re better at handling security than you would be; maybe having someone else handle the datacenter needs is cheaper.  It may benefit from the economies of scale to let a giant corporation handle all of that rather than doing it in-house, but it also means giving up control over your own data and having trust that someone else will take care of it better than you would.  No one’s going to tell you they’re altering the deal and that you should pray they won’t alter it further if you do it in-house.

        In terms of consumer applications, trying to make them cloud-based because “cloud” is trendy is just backwards.  Some things lend themselves to the cloud, but not all of them.  Trying to make an OS into a cloud service, just speaking hypothetically here, would be an incredibly silly and foolish idea.

        Still, if one agrees that the cloud is the future of computing, it doesn’t much matter how one gets there.  Linux, Windows, MacOS, ChromeOS, whatever!  The cloud is inherently OS agnostic, as MS has learned, to great profit.

         

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        • #1743609 Reply

          Lugh
          AskWoody_MVP

          Ascaris, you write the most comprehensive and eloquent posts, always interesting to read 🙂

          When 10% of their profit (and falling) takes 35% of their employee resources, it looks like a bad use of those resources.

          Only if there is a more profitable use for those people—I imagine the cloud sector is already well staffed, since they’ve been doing so well there. But doubtless there are expansion opportunities there.

          My guess is they’re working to reduce the cost of Windows. As each old version goes EoL, it reduces cost far more than the employees salaries—next decade should see only Win10 after 8.1 EoL, with the exception of very profitable enterprise customers.

          That’s not to say I think they will drop Windows… just Windows as we’ve known it.

          Yes, they’ll continue development of the OS as they’ve always done—the next would be what, the 4th such evolution.

          MS did not want you to be able to run Windows software without Windows!

          Recall when MS saved Apple from bankruptcy in the late 90s. The pile of cash was the lesser of what they did, the big save was making MS Office available for the Mac. But of course usually they want us to run on Windows.

          MS is making a lot of investments in Linux, and it’s pretty clear to me that they’re not doing it so they can EEE Linux.

          I don’t get the EEE thing. So MS make a version of Linux—that would be maybe the 250th such. I don’t see how they’d muzzle the other ~249.

          Big companies, makes a lot of money from Linux—I mentioned the amount in a recent post, if I recall correctly it was $30 billion last year. MS have to make sure there will always be a version which will work with the Azure core tech.

          We’ve been using “the cloud” since before it was called “the cloud,”

          Indeed, we’ve progressed nicely since the glory days of drums & smoke signals. Each iteration has increased the reach, scope or carrying capacity. The coming phase is no different, the race is to get the infrastructure in place. Maybe what replaces the ‘cloud’ will be the ‘smoke’.

          when it comes right down to it, it’s still your data on someone else’s computer, dependent on their whims, their security procedures, their conscientiousness, and their own profit motive.

          Yes, it looks like we’re approaching a time where certain parts of the digital domain will become public utilities. We will depend on them like we depend for our electricity & water. Think of it, maybe the majority of humanity hardly give it a thought that two of their main life forces are dependent on the whims etc of public & private companies.

          Data is probably not perceived as more important than water or electricity.

          If you lose control of that data, you lose everything

          It’s not that bad. Very few of the vast number of companies which have lost control of their data have been adversely affected. It’s generally embarrassment and/or a financial hit, all forgotten about a quarter later.

          Trying to make an OS into a cloud service, just speaking hypothetically here, would be an incredibly silly and foolish idea.

          I don’t think it’s hypothetical. AWS, Azure etc are very capable and powerful OSs—but for entire organizations rather than a single device. The cloud can do much more than any individual IT dept can do in terms of supplying IT resources to match a company’s immediate changing needs.

          The cloud is inherently OS agnostic

          Exactly. Linux or Windows etc will become what Cisco, Akamai et al are today—nearly invisible huge crucial providers of parts of the skeleton on which it’s all built.

          Today’s data needs are tiny compared to what’ll be required during the next few decades to service the needs of the major tech & society upheavals being developed. Meanwhile, I still have batteries and a water bottle 🙂

          Lugh.
          ~
          Alienware Aurora R6; Win10 Home x64 1803; Office 365 x32
          i7-7700; GeForce GTX 1060; 16GB DDR4 2400; 1TB SSD, 256GB SSD, 4TB HD

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    • #1735599 Reply

      doriel
      AskWoody Lounger

      My opinion is, that microsoft messed up its own products so badly, that only 3rd party solution can save their ….. lets just say “sitting area”. All the time opensource was my cup of tea, Microsoft told it was cancer. Now MS has stolen Torvalds’s idea, like they did with the idea of windows OS in the very beginning. There is no justice in the world what so ever.
      So the conclusion is > Microsoft, please dont ruin this for everybody.

      By the way, I remember in book called Clone ’97 from Ondrej Neff in year 1997! there was already mentioned thing called Network Computer (not Personal Computer), which should be just terminal for user, everything on cloud, you just operate your termial. Pretty nasty thought in year 1997, isnt it 🙂
      https://www.cbdb.cz/kniha-2246-klon-97-klon-97

      I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
      --- Thomas A. Edison

      • This reply was modified 4 months, 4 weeks ago by  doriel. Reason: additional info
      • This reply was modified 4 months, 4 weeks ago by  doriel.
      • #1745861 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        My opinion is, that microsoft messed up its own products so badly, that only 3rd party solution can save their ….. lets just say “sitting area”. All the time opensource was my cup of tea, Microsoft told it was cancer. Now MS has stolen Torvalds’s idea, like they did with the idea of windows OS in the very beginning. There is no justice in the world what so ever.
        So the conclusion is > Microsoft, please dont ruin this for everybody.

        By the way, I remember in book called Clone ’97 from Ondrej Neff in year 1997! there was already mentioned thing called Network Computer (not Personal Computer), which should be just terminal for user, everything on cloud, you just operate your termial. Pretty nasty thought in year 1997, isnt it 🙂
        https://www.cbdb.cz/kniha-2246-klon-97-klon-97

        • This reply was modified 4 months, 4 weeks ago by  doriel. Reason: additional info
        • This reply was modified 4 months, 4 weeks ago by  doriel.

        Some of us have been familiar with thin-client setups and those were very much around in 1997… actually a bit old-fashioned even then, but there were multiple competing technologies around at the time.

        Then, not quite thin clients but diskless desktop boot and DCE/DFS… heh. The DCE/DFS spec is from 1989, and was based on older AFS technology. Or, a light local installation with the necessary tools to connect to remote endpoints. (This latter looks a lot like what we often have now, right…?)

        Besides, back before all the bloat, it was quite possible if not comfortable to run remote desktop things over a 14.4k modem… heh, I’d do things like lock the local screen with the remote authentication while going for lunch or something. Should the line drop, the remote applications would also drop simultaneously with the lock, and no content would be exposed locally…

        • #1759115 Reply

          NetDef
          AskWoody_MVP

          Do you remember Wyse terminals? (Dell owns them now.)

          Still in production.

          ~ Group "Weekend" ~

    • #1759113 Reply

      Geo
      AskWoody Plus
    • #1759114 Reply

      NetDef
      AskWoody_MVP

      For now at least Microsoft is targeting WSL squarely at developers. They have a lot of Linux VM’s on Azure, and they want to make sure the developers/owners of those VM’s use Windows at their office in real space.

      For the normal end-user, warnings about WSL and Windows Apps not playing nice together (link below) are a sign that this is not quite to the level of being general-public viable. There are some pretty severe gotcha’s.

      Do not change Linux files using Windows apps and tools

      But yes – in the distant future I can totally see this is being Microsoft’s plan on escaping deep involvement with large teams from the personal OS space while maintaining their position.

      ~ Group "Weekend" ~

    • #1764674 Reply

      Geo
      AskWoody Plus

    Please follow the -Lounge Rules- no personal attacks, no swearing, and politics/religion are relegated to the Rants forum.

    Reply To: TechRepublic: "Why Microsoft's Linux love affair was inevitable"

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