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Speaking at an event hosted by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), Microsoft President Brad Smith said: “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.”
“The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn… that you need to change,” he added.
It’s a stark contrast in views since Ballmer, who’s never been known for understatement, called Linux “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”
Ballmer: mad as a spoon
Today, Microsoft is ahead of Facebook, Docker, Google, and many others as the largest contributor to open-source projects. Back in 2018, the company acquired GitHub, the code repository for developers, for $7.5 billion. “When we look at GitHub, we see it as the home for open-source development, and we see our responsibility as its steward to make it a secure, productive home,” said Smith.
Microsoft’s embracing of open source includes the shipping of a full Linux kernel in the next Windows update, and a partnership with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to its OS. There was also the Edge browser’s move to the Chromium engine last year, and the rebooting of PowerToys as an open-source project for Windows 10.