A new era in the tech world is upon us, driven by the rise to power of new blood in big companies who are friendlier and more modern in their approach to the rest of the tech world. If you want proof of that, look no further than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Much like Sundar Pichai has with Google, Nadella has softened Microsoft up a bit and made the company as a whole more willing to embrace what’s going on around them. The latest example of that behavior is in Microsoft’s joining of the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft way back in the day, and eventually brought Windows to the world, they were basically in direct competition with Unix and Linux. Today, Linux dominates the backend of the tech world. Servers and AI programs from multiple companies run Linux-based operating systems, and the core kernel of Android is based on the Linux kernel. Even in the consumer market, GNU/Linux and Linux kernel-based operating systems are giving more and more longtime Windows users a breath of fresh air. The Linux Foundation is a coalition of companies dedicated to protecting the open-source ideals behind the entire thing, and Satya Nadella is the first leader of Microsoft to recognize the importance of that.
Microsoft has been embracing and adding to the open-source ecosystem in big ways recently, even going as far as implementing a Linux-based BASH shell into Windows 10, which had the added benefits of giving the divisive OS a killer app, and helping developers to work more smoothly with projects encompassing both Linux and Windows. In the same press release where Microsoft announced their membership in the Linux Foundation, they also announced that Google is now a part of the Microsoft .NET Foundation, a consortium of companies and developers who use and advocate for Microsoft’s in-house .NET framework, which has in recent years gone open-source and painted itself as a cross-platform development powerhouse. This is only part of the complete 180 that Microsoft has pulled regarding the open-source community in the past few years, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will continue well into the future. Don’t expect Windows to become a free and open-source OS or anything major like that, but you’ll be seeing Microsoft employees’ names in a lot more GitHub entries for prominent open-source projects.
So, what does all of this mean for Android? For starters, as a member of the Linux Foundation, Microsoft will be working more closely with Linux and its variants than ever before, Android included. This means a future with more Microsoft apps and services available on Android, enhancements to existing ones, and even a chance that open-source versions of Microsoft’s most powerful and popular software like Office will pop up, though the chances of that happening any time soon are pretty slim. The implications of Google joining the .NET Foundation are a bit more broad for Android and Chrome OS. As the industry standard cross-platform development tool, .NET is powerful enough and certainly widely used enough that we may begin seeing the kind of things that people could normally only do on a PC head to other devices. Processor architecture, as in x86-based PCs and ARM-based phones and tablets, becomes a bit less of an obstacle when a given program’s underpinnings can be found in a multi-platform toolset. The same goes for Chrome OS; being based on Linux and able to run on both ARM and x86 processors, Chrome OS’ app ecosystem, and thus Chrome’s, will benefit from Google jumping on board with .NET. This goes double for Chrome OS, since support for Android apps is becoming commonplace. Presumably, whatever Andromeda ends up being, it will feel the love as well. Let’s not jump the shark here; this is big, but we’re not going to be seeing OK Google on the Windows 10 desktop or Crysis 3 on Android solely because of this. If things like that happen, of course, today’s developments are probably at least partially responsible.