15 years ago, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux ‘ cancer’. Cut to 2016, and the same Microsoft Corporation is joining the Linux Foundation as a high-paying Platinum member, this time under a new CEO. The Linux Foundation is a non-profit technology trade association chartered to promote, protect and advance Linux and collaborative development. Founded in 2007 by the merger of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG), the Linux Foundation sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and is supported by leading Linux and open source companies. Microsoft joins other giants like Cisco, Fujitsu, Huawei, IBM, Intel, NEC, Oracle, Qualcomm and Samsung to support the Linux Foundation.

Microsoft Joins Linux Foundation

While several technical pundits have lauded this move, there is a considerable surprise in the air too. After all, Microsoft became the software giant that it is by building its empire on closed-source proprietary software. Even 10 years ago, Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation would have seemed unimaginable, but Microsoft has been steadily embracing open source recently, leading it to become the top organisation with the most open source contributors on Github.

Microsoft has been contributing to Linux for several years now, and Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, welcomes the company joining the foundation. “Microsoft is better able to collaborate with the open source community to deliver transformative mobile and cloud experiences to more people.” Zemlin, however, also said “This may come as a surprise to you, but they were not big fans” when asked about his foundation’s history with Microsoft.

Microsoft seems to have truly embraced Satya Nadella’s culture change at the company, and the software maker has open sourced PowerShellVisual Studio Code, and Microsoft Edge’s JavaScript engine recently. Microsoft also partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10, and acquired Xamarin to aid mobile app development. Microsoft even open-sourced Xamarin’s SDKs and developer tools and brought SQL Server to Linux.  Zemlin noted that Microsoft has also contributed to a number of Linux Foundation-managed projects like Node.js, OpenDaylight, the Open Container Initiative, the R-Consortium and the Open API Initiative.

Microsoft’s open source news arrives alongside a Visual Studio for Mac release. Microsoft accidentally revealed the software earlier this week, and it’s built on top of Xamarin Studio that the company acquired earlier this year. Windows and Mac developers will be able to share and contribute to the same projects with the new software, experts say.

Linux Foundation Platinum members pay about $500,000 for the privilege. Google, Facebook and more than a dozen other prominent open source users are ‘Gold sponsors’.

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