Yes, the unthinkable has just happened. Microsoft has submitted code for the Linux kernel, licensed under the GPLv2.
The code in question includes three drivers for their Hyper-V virtualisation technology which makes Linux guests work better.
Why is this a big deal? Well it signals that Linux and free software is powerful and gaining influence, else Microsoft wouldn’t bother at all.
Also, Microsoft previously called the GPL a virus and even anti-American and even Communist.
As Greg Kroah-Hartman mentions in his blog
But, on the other hand, this is Microsoft, so it is a big deal. There are two major aspects of what they did here:
* They released the code under the GPLv2 and publicly stated that this is a valid license for companies to release code under. They will be continuing to contribute under this license, as they work to clean up the code, and add new features and fix bugs as time goes on. This is a huge step forward for Microsoft from what they have previously stated in the past.
* They publicly stated that the proper license to release a Linux kernel driver is under the GPLv2
Of course Microsoft is doing this for their own gain. It is not to benefit the community, but themselves by ensuring Linux runs properly under their own virtualisation technology so that they can compete with other products out there such as Xen, KVM, and VMware.
Still, it’s interesting to see Microsoft do a complete 180 degree flip about Linux and the GPL, as it shows just how influential free software has become.
Update: Groklaw has a good article on this too.
Microsoft wants Linux to run on Windows, in short. So remember what comes after the ‘Embrace’ part… So this is about not losing customers to Linux. And ultimately to replace it, if they can. That’s the ‘Extinguish’ part.