Microsoft has fully embraced open source software, calling it the “industry-accepted model for cross-company collaboration.”
Microsoft was once considered by many as the number one enemy of open source. The company’s approach to software was diametrically opposed to the open source movement, since Microsoft’s business was based entirely on charging for its operating systems (OS) and software.
In recent years, however, especially under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has embraced open source and shifted its entire business model. Rather than vigorously protecting its OS business, and working to keep everyone using Windows, Microsoft has adopted a more open approach. The company’s new focus is providing the best software and services, regardless of the platform the user is on.
This new approach lends itself well to working with open source, especially when it comes to collaborating with other companies. Sarah Novotny, Open Source Lead, Azure Office of the CTO, outlined how much things have changed in a blog post:
A few years ago if you wanted to get several large tech companies together to align on a software initiative, establish open standards, or agree on a policy, it would often require several months of negotiation, meetings, debate, back and forth with lawyers… and did we mention the lawyers? Open source has completely changed this: it has become an industry-accepted model for cross-company collaboration. When we see a new trend or issue emerging that we know would be better to work on together to solve, we come together in a matter of weeks, with established models we can use to guide our efforts.
Novotny highlights several benefits of being part of the open source community, including gaining different perspectives, balancing corporate policy with employee empowerment and autonomy, securing every stage of the software supply chain and over communicating.
These lessons have had a profound impact on how Microsoft does business.
As a result, companies are working together more frequently, and the amount of cross-industry work we’re able to accomplish is accelerating. In 2020 alone, Microsoft participated in dozens of industry groups, associations, and initiatives—from long-standing established organizations, like the Linux Foundation and Apache Foundation, to new emerging communities like Rust and WebAssembly. This work across companies and industries will continue in the year ahead and we look forward to learning, growing, and earning our place in open source.
Microsoft’s example can serve as a lesson to all companies on the importance of open source in today’s industry, and especially in the context of the digital transformation currently in effect.