Microsoft has been making some impressive steps to court developers at this year’s Build 2017 conference, with the most eye-catching announcement being that three of the most popular Linux distributions will be coming to the Windows Store.
The news that Ubuntu, SUSE and Fedora will be available to install directly from the Windows Store would have been unthinkable a few years back, when Steve Ballmer was at the helm of Microsoft.
However, under current CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft seems to be much more outward facing, and willing to embrace (some of) its competitors, rather than just labelling them as a “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches”, which is how Ballmer described Linux in 2001.
Installing one of these distros from the Windows Store will allow users to easily run Linux in a virtualized environment, and will be able to swap between Windows 10 and Linux apps and tools.
You’ve got Linux in my Windows
Running Linux apps within Windows 10 isn’t particularly new, as you can install Bash, which lets you run Linux command-line apps and tools from inside Windows.
However, this new way of running Linux from within Windows makes the whole process a lot easier. It’s good news for users, developers and students that won't have to keep switching between operating systems, and it goes some way to improve Microsoft’s standing in the open source community. Microsoft also recently joined the Linux Foundation, with an eye of working with developers to help improve its tools.
Of course, we also have a sneaky suspicion that this move has been done to prevent developers ditching Windows in favor of Linux.
While Windows is still far more popular among general PC users, a recent developer survey by Stack Overflow showed that Linux was the preferred OS for 26% of developers polled, which although still behind Windows (which got the nod from 32.4% of developers polled), is probably too close for comfort for Microsoft.
Whatever its motives, moves like this – and the addition of Apple’s iTunes software to the Windows Store – are very welcome, and show a more open-minded Microsoft. It doesn’t hurt if it makes the still rather woeful Windows Store better as a result.