Menu
Would Microsoft ever open-source Windows?

Would Microsoft ever open-source Windows?

The possibility is no longer far-fetched, one Microsoft engineer has suggested

Once upon a time not so very long ago, Microsoft was widely considered the very antithesis of open-source software. Steve Ballmer called Linux "a cancer," and Bill Gates shared similar views about the open-source philosophy in general.

Today, it's a different world. CEO Satya Nadella has openly declared a new love for Linux. Microsoft has open-sourced its .NET framework for developers, and Linux is now welcome on its Azure cloud computing service. Through a new focus on open access, the company is increasingly offering its products to users of competing platforms.

Could an open-source Windows be in the cards?

Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich apparently thinks it could. "It's definitely possible," Russinovich reportedly told an audience at the ChefCon conference in Santa Clara this week. "It's a new Microsoft."

Microsoft itself isn't giving anything away. "Microsoft has not made any open-source policy or business-model changes for Windows," a company representative said via email on Friday.

Still, that such a possibility could be seriously discussed in a public forum is a testament to how much has changed in the software world.

"Open source has gone from being a threat for my generation of executives to an asset for the next generation over the last decade and a half," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group.

As that older generation gradually retires, today's executives increasingly share that more positive view, he said.

Another factor is Microsoft's need to make Windows competitive with Android -- an area where "being open source is a requirement," Enderle said.

Put it all together, and a change in Microsoft leadership combined with a shifting competitive landscape is clearly forcing a new look at how to price, deliver and support Windows, he added. "This is just one aspect of what we'll likely see is the most significant change to this product yet made."

Of course, simply open-sourcing a piece of software is not in and of itself the solution to making a product more competitive, noted Al Gillen, a program vice president with IDC.

"To successfully move proprietary code into the open community means more than just posting the code in the public sector," Gillen said." You need a community to rally around the product, to contribute development effort and to help drive the technology forward."

Organizations also need to step forward to offer commercial support for the open-source parts, and "the prospect of competing with a differentiated support offering becomes hard," he added.

Microsoft already makes Windows free for small form-factor devices, so if Windows were to be open-sourced, it would most likely begin at that small-device level -- the phones and small tablets where Microsoft already faces monetization challenges, Gillen said.

Even at the high end, however, as Microsoft moves its customers to a service model through Azure, it becomes less important to monetize the Windows software directly, Gillen noted.

"Microsoft's revenue increasingly comes from the compute services rather than licensing software, and by selling a wide collection of related services such as Office 365, OneDrive, Bing, etc.," he said. "So would it make sense to open-source Windows in, maybe, 10 years? Quite possibly."


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags open sourceMicrosoftoperating systemssoftwareWindows

Featured

Slideshows

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners

More than 500 channel leaders gathered in Auckland on 21 October at the ​Reseller News Innovation Awards ​2020 to celebrate the achievements of the New Zealand technology industry's top partners, start-ups, vendors, distributors and individuals.

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners
Meet the winners of the 2020 Reseller News Innovation Awards

Meet the winners of the 2020 Reseller News Innovation Awards

Reseller News honoured the standout players of the New Zealand channel in front of more than 500 technology leaders in Auckland on 21 October, recognising the achievements of top partners, start-ups, vendors, distributors and individuals.

Meet the winners of the 2020 Reseller News Innovation Awards
Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

This year’s Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards were held as an integral part of the first entirely virtual Emerging Leaders​ forum, an annual event dedicated to identifying, educating and showcasing the New Zealand technology market’s rising stars. The 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 recognised the outstanding achievements and business excellence of 30 talented individuals​, across both young leaders and those just starting out. In this slideshow, Reseller News honours this year's winners and captures their thoughts about how their ideas of leadership have changed over time.​

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners
Show Comments