Just today, Microsoft has contributed 20,000 lines of code to Linux, licensed under the GPLv2. This is the first time Microsoft has chosen to use the GPL to license it’s own code.  The software they’ve released today helps to make Linux work better when running in a virtual machine on top of Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor.

Microsoft’s announcement was a big surprise coming from the same company who argued that the “[GPL] debases the currency of the ideas and labor that transform great ideas into great products” and have compared it to a virus.

While this is the first time Microsoft has released code under the GPL, it isn’t the first contribution Microsoft has made to Free Software.  For example, in January of this year, Microsoft made it’s first contribution to the Apache project.  Microsoft’s Bing search engine includes some open source code.  Microsoft also has it’s own Free Software license called the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) which is recognized as such by the Free Software Foundation.

Microsoft has also been showing support for Mono with promises not to sue Mono users for patent violations.  I was also surprised to notice that Microsoft’s video website, which requires the Silverlight plugin, redirects Linux users to Mono’s Moonlight plugin page.

So, what’s next?  Perhaps Windows 8 will run on the Linux kernel.

I just read an interesting, albeit admittedly unscientific, post by Starry Hope on the popularity of Ubuntu.  Here are the two graphs from the post which I found to be the most interesting.

Google Search volume of Ubuntu compared to Debian, Fedora/Red Hat, and openSUSE:

Ubuntu compared to the top ten other Linux distributions combined:

If you think Google search volume is a fair indicator of popularity, than it’s pretty clear that Ubuntu is more popular than all the rest of the Linux distributions put together.

While I think there is good reason for Ubuntu to be so far out in front, I hope that we in the Ubuntu Community don’t let that reality go to our heads, but continue to be good citizens in the greater Linux Community.  While Ubuntu may be the most popular distrubution, Canonical (Ubuntu’s source of paid development) isn’t very profitable (yet?) and depends on the development efforts paid for by the makers of competing distrubutions like Red Hat and Novell to produce much of the software which makes Ubuntu complete.

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