Open-Source Collaboration

Why does Microsoft Windows 10 need Linux?

In the early days of its life, Linux was seen as a threat to Windows. It's not hard to see why, since the two operating systems' underlying philosophies appear diametrically opposed. Windows is closed-source, proprietary software created by one large organisation and sold on a commercial basis. Linux is open-source, developed by a disparate group of volunteers and is given away freely.

Although Linux was largely ignored by end users (even today it accounts for a little over 2% of the desktop OS market), it took huge chunks of the server market away from Microsoft. At one point, over two-thirds of web servers ran Apache on Linux instead of IIS on Windows. That figure has now fallen to around one-third. Even so, you might assume that Microsoft retains a seething dislike of all things penguin.

You'd be wrong. Companies that base strategic decisions on emotional reactions are unlikely to thrive. There was once a time when Microsoft was large and dominant enough to potentially treat competitors with contempt or impunity. Not now. Recently the company has shown that it can – and must – adapt to changing computer use and differences in the way its customers employ technology. The latest example of this is the inclusion of a Linux shell, called WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) within Windows 10.

Twenty-five years after Linux went public how do experts think the movement will be in another quarter century? We asked open-source experts, What will Linux and open source look like in 2041?

This feature arrived with little fanfare and, at the time of writing, is still in beta form. It's not a port of Linux tools to the Windows environment, such as is the case with Cygwin, which has been used for many years by Windows users needing access to some Linux utilities. Nor is it a virtual machine or container for running Linux apps separately from the host environment.

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Alex Cruickshank

Alex Cruickshank has been writing about technology and business since 1994. He has lived in various far-flung places around the world and is now based in Berlin.  

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