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What you need to know

  • Microsoft president Brad Smith says Microsoft was "on the wrong side of history when open source exploded."
  • Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux a "cancer" in 2001.
  • Microsoft has embraced open source increasingly over the last few years.

Microsoft president Brad Smith recently shared his thoughts on open source and how Microsoft approached it at the turn of the century. Speaking at an MIT event, Smith stated that "Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally." Smith has been with Microsoft for 25 years and The Verge points out that he has been part of several legal battles surrounding open source software as one of Microsoft's senior lawyers. Now, Smith has a different view.

The Microsoft president added that "The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn … that you need to change." Smith isn't alone in his feelings about open-source software. Microsoft has embraced the concept increasingly over the last few years. PowerShell, Visual Studio Code, and the original Microsoft Edge's JavaScript engine are all open-sourced. The Windows Subsystem for Linux not only exists, but it integrates more with Windows 10 now more than ever. Microsoft also purchased GitHub and acquired Xamarin, both popular open-source technology.

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These moves are a stark contrast to when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Linux is "a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches." Now, Microsoft has a browser based on the open-source Chromium engine and is active in several open source communities.

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