Software giant has changed since initial battles, Brad Smith says
Microsoft was wrong to push back against Linux and other open-source technologies as they grew in popularity more than a decade ago and challenged Microsoft’s position in the enterprise software space, according to a longtime company executive.
The Lowdown: Microsoft President Brad Smith reportedly made his comments during a recent virtual event hosted by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL).
The Details: Microsoft fought fiercely when open-source software began to find its feet and grow in popularity. One-time CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux a “cancer” that survived by living off the intellectual property of commercial businesses, Microsoft included. But Microsoft has made a complete pivot over the years to become the top contributor to open-source communities, outdistancing the likes of Apache, Google, and Facebook.
The company has open-sourced such technologies as PowerShell and Visual Studio Code and will have a full Linux kernel in the upcoming Windows 10 update. Microsoft’s Edge browser is based on Chromium, and the company joined The Linux Foundation in 2016.
Smith has been with Microsoft for 25 years and was a lawyer for the company as it battled against open-source technologies in court. He said that the enmity Microsoft showed to open source and its proponents was misplaced, but that Microsoft has significantly changed its stance regarding open technologies.
The Impact: Microsoft’s growing embrace of open-source software, which has accelerated since Satya Nadella took over as CEO for Ballmer in 2014, has been important for enterprises, which over the years have also increasingly embraced open technologies. For Microsoft and its partners, it’s meant that they can deliver a broader range of products to meet customer demands, whether they’re for open software or Microsoft’s offerings.
The Buzz: “Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally,” Smith said during the MIT event. “The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn … that you need to change.”