What if Windows went open source tomorrow?

Azure CTO’s comments spark deep thinking about open source possibilities

Thinking out loud about Microsoft making Windows an open source project is a great way to get your friends and colleagues wondering seriously about your mental health. It’s an idea strange enough to sound practically paradoxical, like “hot ice” or “short Pink Floyd songs.”

It’s intriguing for the same reason, however – and people both inside and outside of Microsoft have begun to openly consider the potential upsides and downsides of such a move.

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The company has been working to thaw its relations with the free and open source software community for several years now. In that time, Microsoft has made real strides, releasing its .NET build engine, JavaScript tools, and more as open source. Linux runs on Azure, and Azure CTO Mark Russinovich (@MarkRussinovich) recently made waves by stating, outright, that an open source Windows was “a possibility.”

But it’s not a big one, by most estimates. Network World contributor and SUSE employee Bryan Lunduke’s estimation that Microsoft releasing Windows’ assets and code via something like the GPL “would, in all likelihood, happen at the exact same moment that all volcanoes on Earth turn into waffle cones filled with chocolate ice cream” seems to be where the smart money currently is.

Network World contributor and SUSE employee Bryan Lunduke

“The fact that this has even the slightest chance of ever happening boggles the mind,” he said.                

Why in the world would Microsoft do this?

Broadly speaking, to gain all the traditional advantages of open source software – community developed code that has more eyes out for bugs, goodwill from developers, and potential user base growth, thanks to favorable ($0) pricing on the base product.

Michael LaVista is the founder and CEO of Caxy, a Chicago-based web and UX design firm that uses open source software. He said that a newly opened Windows code base would have its advantages.

“One of the huge benefits of the open source community approach is that issues are spotted quickly and patched quickly,” he said. “The downside is seeing what’s in

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