Eric Raymond thinks Microsoft is ready to swap out the Windows kernel for Linux

According to a blog post penned by open-source advocate Eric Raymond, Microsoft is finally ready to give up on that old relic it called Windows, which doesn't even generate enough revenue anymore to be more than a "sideshow" at the company. Raymond says that now that Azure makes so much more money than Windows does, the firm is set to replace Windows with Linux, which will run an emulation layer in order to maintain compatibility with legacy apps.

The only problem is that none of that is true. Despite stagnant growth, Windows revenue is still among the most profitable pieces of Microsoft. Azure is set to surpass that someday, but that day is not today. Nevertheless, Raymond thinks that the more that this happens, the less Windows will be as a priority for Microsoft, and eventually, Windows development simply won't make sense.

"Looked at from the point of view of cold-blooded profit maximization, this means continuing Windows development is a thing Microsoft would prefer not to be doing. Instead, they’d do better putting more capital investment into Azure – which is widely rumored to be running more Linux instances than Windows these days."

The speculation that Microsoft cares less about Windows than it once did (it's not even really speculation) isn't new, and it stands to reason that the firm will care even less down the line. But Raymond not only looks at Microsoft's finances as evidence; he looks at clues that are right in front of us. Those clues are, you guessed it, the Windows Subsystem for Linux and Microsoft's Edge browser coming to Linux.

The latter is actually pretty easily explained, since it took such little work to bring Edge to Linux. Edge is based on Chromium now, and so it supports all of the platforms supported by Chromium. What probably should have been more notable is that Microsoft built Edge from Chromium in the first place, rather than continuing to develop its own in-house browser. The story with how Edge was rebuilt is quite similar to what Raymond is saying will happen with Windows.

"If you think this is fantasy, think again. The best evidence that it’s already the plan is that Microsoft has already ported Edge to run under Linux. There is only one way that makes any sense, and that is as a trial run for freeing the rest of the Windows utility suite from depending on any emulation layer."

Windows does ship with a Linux kernel now with the latest Windows Subsystem for Linux, and as noted in the blog post, Microsoft does contribute to Linux in an effort to make WSL better.

All of this adds up to, in Raymond's opinion, Microsoft rebuilding Windows from a Linux kernel, with a Windows emulation layer on top. Developers will be able to compile their apps to run natively if they wish, which is what Microsoft is already doing with Edge.

While he does create a compelling argument for Microsoft wanting to do this, he doesn't account for whether or not Microsoft can do this. The Redmond firm is notoriously bad at getting app developers on board for something that it wants them to do; you can use Windows Phone or Windows on ARM as examples here. It's also not shown that it's great at emulation, with 32-bit emulation not being great on ARM PCs and 64-bit emulation not even here yet.

What do you think? Is the year of desktop Linux finally on the way? Let us know in the comments!

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