You probably read the above headline and had a question of your own. Something along the lines of, “Colin, what have you been smoking?”
I know, it seems ridonklulous to think that Microsoft would give up on its Windows operating system — a product that dominates its market like few others in IT or any other industry. But in light of Microsoft’s recent Linux outreach, it’s a legitimate question.
Before I explain, here’s the back story for those who have been living in a cave this week: Microsoft released three Linux drivers Monday under GPLv2 (a first). The drivers are supposed to help Linux guest operating systems run on Hyper-V.
Some IT folks think this move marks the beginning of a seismic shift for Microsoft: from a focus on the operating system (Windows) to a focus on the infrastructure (Hyper-V).
“As they’ve probably noticed, their future is not in operating systems anymore,” Mark Grand, a systems administrator at Emory University, told SearchITChannel.com this week.
And Frank Basanta, technology director for Systems Solutions in New York City, had this to say: “Microsoft wants to make sure you can run all your stuff in their environment.”
In some respects, this idea makes sense. VMware has clearly taken the infrastructure-first approach, and the company is only emphasizing that more with its latest release, vSphere 4. (vSphere, by the way, was originally called the Virtual Data Center Operating System. Wonder if that had anything to do with the name change?)
Other tech giants are following suit. Cisco has its Unified Computing System, and Google is placing its bets on cloud infrastructure. So it’s only natural for Microsoft to want in on the action.
Still, to give up on Windows so quickly and easily would be foolhardy on Microsoft’s part. I attended last week’s Worldwide Partner Conference and left with the impression that Microsoft is sticking with its operating system focus for the foreseeable future, thanks to the bright spotlight shone on Windows 7 throughout the event.
But Microsoft has a long history of sending mixed messages about its products. Just days before the release of the Linux drivers, for example, COO Kevin Turner spent a good chunk of his WPC keynote criticizing open source software.
Now, when the question comes to Microsoft’s strategy — operating system or infrastructure — it appears that mixed messages will rule yet again.