Ubuntu For Windows

Posted on Sat 02 April 2016 in Articles • 2 min read

Is it me or has hell frozen over?

Technical websites across the Internet are buzzing with the news that Microsoft and Canonical have collaborated to bring an Ubuntu user-land compatibility layer to Windows 10. The move is part of Microsoft's attempts to woo back developers, who are increasing writing software for the Cloud (aka, software running on Linux servers) and have therefore been moving to Linux and OS X.

I have a feeling this is targeted to enterprise users -- like myself and my colleagues -- developers who produce enterprise-grade Java applications or backend services to mobile apps and do so using Ubuntu VMs on top of Windows. Most developers need a powerful command line and access to GNU and other UNIX user land tools that don't ship with Windows.

By using a VM, I'm effectively dividing my computer's resources, allocated CPU, memory and storage. I use MS Office and the Adobe Creative Suite in Windows and do my technical writing in Ubuntu using the Asciidoctor tool chain. My preference would be to use a single OS on a bare metal installation but our IT policies prevent me from using OS X or Linux so if Windows offered me a solution then I would seriously consider ditching the VM.

It's a good move by Microsoft; having a UNIX compatibility layer actually makes Windows more competitive against the Mac platform. For 15 years, OS X has been the only platform where you can run commercial software from Microsoft and Adobe and still have a powerful command line.

What I don't understand is Canonical's motivation.

As I noted above, if I could use a single OS to do everything I need, I would do so in a heartbeat. What incentive would I have for running Linux? I dislike the Windows UI, but I make do with it every time I use Outlook, Word or Photoshop.

It seems to me that this announcement is an admission by both companies. Microsoft is admitting that Linux has won on the server side as a development and production platform and Windows needs to change to meet the needs of developers if it is to stay relevant.

For Canonical, it seems they're admitting they won't supplant Microsoft Windows in the enterprise and perhaps it's a sign (one of many) that the company is no longer as interested in Desktop Linux as it once was.

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