Over the past few years, Microsoft has wholeheartedly embraced Linux and open source which is why the developer and writer Eric S. Raymond (ESR) believes that the next version of Windows could end up running entirely on Linux.
In a new blog post, ESR points to the fact that the software giant recently released its Windows System for Linux 2 (WSL2) and that it is currently porting its Edge browser to Linux as reasons why the company could one day retire the Windows kernel in favor of the Linux kernel.
WSL2 also allows for unmodified Linux binaries to run under Windows 10 with no emulation or shim layer. At the same time though, Microsoft developers are now adding features to the Linux kernel in an effort to improve WSL.
ESR thinks that Linux could finally win the desktop wars “not by displacing Windows but by co-opting it”.
Shifting business model
Up until 2010, Microsoft sold Windows and its Office software as standalone products with perpetual licenses that users paid for once and could use forever. However, with the launch of its Azure cloud service, the company moved to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model where users pay a monthly subscription fee to use its software.
Ten years have passed since the introduction of Microsoft’s cloud and now Azure is where the company makes most of its revenue. At the same time, the company’s operating system has become a sideshow according to ESR and sales of conventional desktop PCs are declining.
Continuing to develop Windows the way it has for years no longer makes sense for Microsoft and it should instead be putting those resources into Azure. It’s also widely rumored that Azure is now running more Linux instances than Windows these days.
ESR also points to Steam’s Proton as another reason why Windows as we know it is no longer necessary. Proton is an emulation layer that allows Windows games distributed on Steam to run over Linux. The solution is far from perfect at the moment but it gives us some insights as to how things may work in the future. If Microsoft was to release the next version of Windows using the Linux kernel though, its operating system could end up being a Proton-like emulation layer that runs on top of Linux.
We’ll just have to wait and see whether ESR’s predictions come to pass but Windows itself could certainly benefit from running on the Linux kernel as opposed to its own trouble-prone kernel.