Software licenses are one of the biggest money makers of Microsoft but one day into the future that may change to a more support-oriented model. Mark Russinovich, one of Microsoft's chief engineers, told the audience at ChefCon that open sourcing Windows is definitely possible. Russinovich explains it's a new Microsoft and that the tech industry has changed in enormous ways.
It may not happen anytime soon, but if Microsoft eventually open sources Windows, the operating system can still be a big money maker as many of the world's businesses would still require a vendor who can package, distribute, and update the OS. For now, Microsoft is taking small steps, such as allowing Linux to run on its Azure cloud computing service but the writing is on the wall that the old Microsoft, which actively suppressed open source, is becoming a thing of the past.
It’s quite a change for Microsoft, so long the bete noir of the open source community. But as Russinovich explains, it’s a necessary change. And given how popular Linux has become, Microsoft could go even further, not only allowing open source software on its cloud services, but actually turning Windows into open source software. “Every conversation you can imagine about what should we do with our software—open versus not-open versus services—has happened,” he says.
Certainly, Microsoft won’t open source the thing tomorrow—if ever. Windows is still such a big part of the Microsoft revenue stream. And as Russinovich says, open sourcing such a complex piece of code isn’t easy. “If you open source something but it comes with a build system that takes rocket scientists and three months to set up, what’s the point?” he asks. But Microsoft is already giving away one version of Windows for free (though not sharing the underlying code). And it has already open sourced other important pieces of its software empire. If nothing else, his very public comments show—in stark fashion—how much the tech world has evolved. And how much Microsoft has evolved.