Microsoft loves Linux so much that it has gone and made its very own, custom Linux kernel.
I joke you not!
‘Microsoft loves Linux so much it has made its own, custom Linux kernel’
Announcing the (somewhat unbelievable) news at an event in San Francisco, USA on April 16, Microsoft President Bad Smith said:
“After 43 years, this is the first day that we are announcing, and will be distributing, a custom Linux kernel.”
No, it’s not April 1. No, he’s not joking.
Microsoft is using Linux as part of a new product called Azure Sphere.
Azure Sphere is a new bit of technology from Microsoft designed to protect micro-processors used in small devices and the ‘internet of things’, as this video explains:
Once you get beyond the “omg”-ness of “Microsoft making its own Linux” the actual product itself isn’t especially salacious. It’s aim is to secure future smart gadgets through a partnership of three parts:
- A new micro controller unit (MCU) design
- Linux-based Azure Sphere OS
- Azure Sphere cloud security
Azure Stack OS is the Linux element in this sandwich. It’s the operating system that Microsoft has chosen to run on (and help protect) the bespoke micro controller unit designs Microsoft is offering up to chip makers for free.
‘Microsoft concedes that Windows is too bloated for the task in hand’
Why not Windows 10 or the smaller, nimbler Windows 10 for IoT?
According to reports Smith says that Windows, even in its slimmed-down IoT guise, is just too “full blown” for the tiny task in has in mind:
“Of course we are the Windows company [but] what we’ve recognized is, the best solution for a computer of this size—in a toy—is not a full-blown version of Windows. It is what we are creating here.”
By ‘this’ size he means the new chip Microsoft has developed. This chip isn’t the sort of processor you’re going to find in regular PCs, phones, or even single-board computers.
But where this chip is used it’s Linux that runs as the OS on them:
“It is a custom Linux kernel complemented by the kinds of advances that we have created in Windows itself. It’s an important step for us. It’s an important step, I think, for the industry. And it will enable us to stand behind the technology in a way I believe the world needs.”
More Linux is always a good thing — thought clearly here the lure is for device developers to continue building devices with what they know and want (i.e. Linux) but with some added advantages (improved security) and Microsoft leverage (cloud-based updates).
Don’t expect Microsoft Linux on the Desktop, Though
This news does not mean Microsoft is about to branch out and build its very own desktop Linux distro!
It could, and some would argue it should, but it more than likely isn’t going to.
Azure Sphere is a pointed, purposeful product designed for a very specific use case. Linux already dominates the embedded market and the ‘internet of things’ because it is the most flexible, adaptable and malleable OS available.
Microsoft Loves Linux, Remember?
Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation in 2016. And the software titan has expended a lot of effort in reproaching Linux as an equal rather than a rival, integrating Linux into its cloud offerings, and bringing Bash and Linux tools to the Windows desktop via WSL.
Despite Microsoft’s new found respect for Linux raising all manner of muscle twitches from the long-beards in the Linux community, the move has, more or less, yet to prove anything other than sincere.
So don’t panic about this news. Like a lot of Microsoft efforts it may end up coming to nothing if developers continue to use established services and workflows.
It is interesting to see that as Microsoft runs towards Linux so Google moves away from it…