Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer then compared open-source Linux in 2001 to cancer. “It attaches itself to any intellectual property,” said Ballmer at the time. That statement reflects the attitude Microsoft had under its 14-year leadership towards open-source software. In 2014, Ballmer was succeeded by current CEO Satya Nadella and the tone has slowly changed.
“Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open-source exploded at the turn of the century,” current Microsoft president Brad Smith said recently at an event at MIT University. “I can say that personally,” said Smith, who has worked for Microsoft for 25 years and has been a key lawyer in the fight against open-source software for many years.
“The good news is that if life is long enough, you can learn to change,” said Smith. Microsoft is now the largest contributor to open source projects in the world, more than other tech giants such as Facebook and Google.
Microsoft also acquired the major coding platform GitHub in 2018 for $ 7.5 billion, and some Linux distributions are even offered in the Windows Store.