50 shades of Microsoft's flirtation with Linux

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Credit: Paul Mason/Flickr

Microsoft’s love for Linux has a dark and scary side to it.

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I am full of praise for Microsoft’s display of love for Linux. Since Ballmer's departure, Microsoft has become more realistic in their approach to Linux and instead of trying to destroy it they are now embracing it. They love it.

The reason behind this is clear: Linux and open source dominate the enterprise. Microsoft has said that 25% of machines on Azure are running Linux. They can’t ignore these paying customers. They have to support Linux; they have to make their developer tools open source so they get wider adoption.

I am giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe that they have put their Linux-destroying days behind them and that market forces have changed the company.

Just this week, Microsoft announced that they are bringing SQL Server to Linux. They also joined the Eclipse Foundation and open sourced some tools. And they are working on a Linux-based switch for Azure. All I hear is Linux. Linux. Linux.

Except…

This week, as they were making the SQL Server and Eclipse Foundation announcements, the legal arm of the company goaded two more vendors into signing patent deals around Linux technologies. This time the victims were Android manufacturer Wistron and e-commerce provider Rakuten.

Every time I write about Microsoft's involvement with Linux and open source, I'm met with pushback from people in the open source world who voice their distrust in Microsoft. I find myself defending Microsoft and its motives because I believe they have changed. And then this happens.

Big enterprise software companies like Red Hat, SUSE or Canonical may not care, but the larger open source community remains frightened of Microsoft. No one knows who will be the next player, peacefully using Linux, to get a letter from Microsoft’s legal department to either pay up or see them in court.

If Microsoft really cares about Linux and open source, if they really want to be part of the community. they must win the trust of the community. As I've said before and will say again, if Microsoft really loves Linux, they must make a public pledge to not go after Linux. They should join the Open Innovation Network (OIN) to send a message to the Linux and open source world that they are in it with us, that they are not going to attack us, to destroy us if we use Linux.

Until that happens, Microsoft will be seen as a company that’s simply exploiting open source and Linux to reach out to more customers instead of becoming a trusted, good citizen.

As someone who has been covering Linux for a very long time and remembers the SCO days, it’s refreshing to see Microsoft embracing Linux. But their continued legal attacks on Linux weakens my trust.

The question is: Does Microsoft care about that trust? 

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