Microsoft is taking increasingly bolder steps toward the openness it has embraced under CEO Satya Nadella, announcing today that it’s joining the Linux Foundation as a platinum member. Microsoft is also releasing a public preview of the next version of SQL Server for Linux and making public-cloud competitor Google a member of its .NET Foundation technical steering committee.
Those announcements and others are slated for release today at Microsoft’s online developers’ event Connect 2016, now in its third year, with a tagline that once would have been unimaginable for the Redmond company: “Any developer, any application, any platform.”
Seeming to choke up a bit on stage this morning, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin shook hands with Microsoft cloud and enterprise VP Scott Guthrie and said, “Wow! Big moment! . . . Microsoft and the Linux Foundation may have had disagreements in the past, but one thing we’ve always agreed on is that developers are super-important. There’s just too much software to be written for any organization to it by themselves. We need to collaborate on these things. . . . To the skeptics out there, I’d like to say that . . . if Microsoft loves Linux, on behalf of the over 800 members of the Linux Foundation . . . we love you too.”
Microsoft’s “joining the Linux Foundation would have been crazy talk if it weren’t for other announcements in the last couple of years like the Red Hat partnership, open-sourcing .NET, and running SQL Server on Linux,” said Al Hilwa, IDC’s program director for software-development research. “The motivation here is to build out the cloud business around Linux workloads and to sell tools to a broader set of developers than just Windows developers.”
Microsoft’s trajectory toward openness “is a breath of fresh air to me, because I feel in my bones we’re doing the right things,” said Mitra Azizirad, corporate VP of cloud application development and data marketing, in a recent interview.
Today, 36 percent of .NET core downloads are from developers totally new to Microsoft, and two-thirds of .NET core contributions are coming from outside developers, she said, calling the trend “hugely gratifying.” Microsoft is emerging as a major contributor to software-sharing site GitHub. And joining the Linux Foundation is “evidence of our turning the corner in our relationship with the open-source community,” Azizirad said.
News broke earlier this week that Microsoft is bringing Visual Studio to Mac, nearly 20 years after that product’s debut. Visual Studio for MacOS came about through Microsoft’s purchase of San Francisco-based startup Xamarin in February, Azizirad said. “We went (into that purchase) with the intention of providing this,” she said.
It’s apparently not a direct port of Visual Studio but rather a slightly different product. The Register quoted Mikayla Hutchinson, Microsoft’s senior program manager for the Xamarin platform, as calling it “a new product . . . (that) doesn’t support all of the Visual Studio project types.” She added, though, that projects can be easily shared between Visual Studio for Windows and for MacOS. Microsoft declined to comment on the matter.
At Connect 2016, Microsoft will announce a preview version of Visual Studio tools for Tizen, the open-source operating system used by Samsung and others in smartphones, tables, appliances and other devices. It will also release a .NET software-development kit for C# developers to build apps that run on that operating system.
Microsoft has changed pretty radically since the days when co-founder and then-CEO Bill Gates declared its goal to be “a computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.” It has dumped unprofitable businesses like portable music players, made Office free on some devices, and adapted to a world in which many developers use multiple languages and products interchangeably.
“I’ve been at Microsoft for 25 years, and I don’t think I can stay another 25, but I wish I could,” Azizirad said. “That’s how energized I am about the changes we’re seeing here.”