Microsoft’s Linux Lab?

By Blane Warrene

ZDNetAsia ran an interesting article earlier this month that reflects a somewhat more mature view of open source internally at Microsoft.

It is obvious that a scorched earth policy on open source will not work for Microsoft, as they have discovered after previous attempts at using inflammatory remarks to debase Linux. Thus the company has started building an internal sandbox within which to explore Unix variants from Linux to Solaris to Apple’s OS X. The Windows maker is using Bill Hilf, a lifelong Unix/Linux expert to manage a lab that provides under the hood access to the competing OS.

I find it fascinating the trials and tribulations of setting up the lab – which Hilf reveals in the piece. It also suggests possible positive results of the exercise – that possible improvements to open source applications might be contributed from Microsoft’s Linux Lab and that Microsoft may be able and willing to improve how its systems interact with competing operating systems. This would be a necessary evil for them as many large Microsoft customers largely also run Unix variants side by side with Windows boxes.

Hilf may also be one of the drivers behind the company’s recent outreach to the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) for a shared study on Windows and Linux. However, at first glance I have to agree with OSDL leader Stuart Cohen’s reaction in that same article:

“As far as working with Microsoft on a study, Microsoft could probably find one negative line on Linux in a 100-page research report that it would spend $10 million marketing while ignoring the other 99 pages.”

  • Dr Livingston

    i think that microsoft after all the slagging off it has made of open source over the years, has a hard neck to venture into it now, after all this time.

    some folks… have no shame at all :( :lol:

  • Andy Jones

    and that Microsoft may be able and willing to improve how its systems interact with competing operating systems.

    Imagine they did do this. Imagine they did improve the interoperability between Microsoft Servers/Clients to Linux/Unix servers. This would be great wouldn’t it? No more struggling, just plug in your servers and off you go (presumably).

    There is only one problem that I can see. At the moment my place of work use NT Server but we will be migrating over to either 2000 or 2003 Server later this year (probably 2000 Server). Do you honestly believe that Microsoft, if they improved the interoperability, would port this to previous versions? No, it will be in Longhorn Server with the excuse of ‘cannot be ported backwards because of security improvements’.

    Basically, any improvements in interoperability will be used to persuade people to upgrade their servers. This is surely Microsoft’s ultimate plan. They see it as just another way to increase their revenue!!

  • Andy – I absolutely agree that will be one of Microsoft’s tacks. However – if the trade-off is actually true improved usability between platforms – I will take it.

  • MickoZ

    Don’t implement it backward, also mean you don’t have to support backward. That is sometime good. It is easy to complain, but sometime they could right now implement some feature backward, but they don’t want to support it, and that is ok, else they will put too much work time supporting stuff that not much use. Do you want them to support DOS for the next 100 years? Nada.

    Microsoft has had Linux labs since sometime AFAIK.

    It is a also a good opportunity to know about your competitor.

    Also, I think Windows was made to be portable long time ago. But they chose to support only PC, etc. And that sometime is a good decision and good business decision.

    That is like console vs. PC games. The console developper has the advantage to develop for a know hardware.

  • Unfortunately, they are suppose to drive revenue. Why would they support a system that was 5-10 years old (assuming that interoperability between the two took that long)? They’ve already stopped updating Win2000 to a certain level.

    Overall, I think its a great idea. but, microsoft seems to always have ‘other intentions’.

  • Bertrand Giasson

    Remember Open GL ? Microsoft used it to get the Feds off thier Back and I have no reason to believe that this is any different.I also think this new initiative is just another bone being thrown to increasingly disgruntled programers and will result in another exodus from Microsoft.Developers no longer see Microsoft as an innovator and is the real reason for the emplooyees are speaking out

Get the latest in Front-end, once a week, for free.