The distinct possibility of open-sourcing Windows is no longer distinct, Microsoft says


Microsoft has taken considerable strides in the unlikely direction of open sourcing Windows. Instead of allowing developers to make alterations to Windows and other products, it’s Microsoft’s hands controlling the keyboard.

Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich said, a future which includes an open-source Windows is probable. “It’s definitely possible.  It’s a new Microsoft,” Russinovich apparently told audience at the ChefCon conference in Santa Clara this week.

“Every conversation you can imagine about what we should do with our software, open versus not-open versus services, has happened,” Russinovich added.

Saturday commemorates Microsoft’s 40th anniversary. A few years ago, a statement by Russinovich would have been an abomination to Microsoft, and if Bill Gates still sits at the CEO’s desk, it might have ended in a termination letter. But this is the new Microsoft, obligated into a spirit of cooperation and collaboration by an ever increase in pressure on the PC and on its business model. This is still a distant future stuff, but science fiction can become reality. Just ask Dick Tracy’s watch.

However, an open-source Windows would be unlikely in the near term. That would require Microsoft to bare its piles of code to public view, hypothetically permitting developers to create their own exclusive, incompatible forks of Windows. That’s an absolute example, of course, Microsoft could decide to open the code to certain components within the OS, perhaps what will turn into the “legacy” browser, Internet Explorer. But open-sourcing Windows,  and perhaps make it free to use, would also require Microsoft to give up a giant portion of the $4 billion or so a quarter it receives from Windows, Windows Phone, and Office licenses.

As Wired points out, Microsoft has agreed to provide OEMs a free copy of Windows for devices with displays under 8 inches. And it’s far more open to running open-source products on top of its Azure cloud services than it was.



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