Linux is, and will probably always be, a thorn in the side of Microsoft. There are plenty of variations of the free operating system that do a ton of different things. With that variety comes trouble in getting anything done unless you are quite adept at the command line (I will wait for the flame comments now). This is something that has always been a popular point for Windows- while some software gives weird error messages, for the most part, if it is a piece of software for Windows, it will more than likely run on the version of Windows you are running on your PC now. The same cannot be said for Linux, anyone that has tried to switch and install anything outside of the base software will be familiar with having to update obscure software that seemingly is not related in ANY way to the software you are trying to install now. This is affectionately known as “dependency hell” by people like me. As certain distributions such as Ubuntu and Fedora (I am a SuSE man myself) gain in popularity it is only fitting that Microsoft start looking at, the very least, those distributions for support of key MS software. Microsoft has shown support for their competitors in the past by releasing Office for Mac OS for instance. With Linux though, Microsoft has been ostensibly against it in every way they could be. Sure, they are slowly working towards better relations with the open source community by submitting bug fixes and such to the Kernel, they are yet to go the full monty and release a full-blown piece of software to consumers. Part of this may be the fact that people who use Linux in any of its versions are usually not interested in purchasing software for it- rather content with using open source versions that are comparable to commercial software.
Valve’s popular gaming distribution service, Steam, has recently been offering a Linux version of their service. Not all of the games available on Steam are available on the Linux side of things- that is up to the developers to support the open source operating system. Steam just makes it easier to do so.
Valve’s interest in the open source operating system is all find and dandy but what does that have to do with Microsoft? Well, for now, Steam is the biggest commercial entity that is supporting the operating system with commercial software. That means that there are a lot of eyes on the level of success that Valve sees here, which will dictate if other companies follow suit and support Linux in new and interesting ways, or not.
I am sure Microsoft is watching Valve and anyone else that is trying to monetize Linux. Microsoft, who is trying to transition to a software and services company, has to be watching Linux more than ever before. With options such as Office 365 and its subscription model it is a case of users either pay to keep membership or not use it. For Microsoft this is a win/win since they already have Office running on Android and iOS (both are based on Linux) already. Porting to desktop Linux shouldn’t be all that tough for Microsoft programmers.
The question is, will they?
From a financial standpoint, it is a no brainer. It is just one more platform for Microsoft to offer support for, which yes costs money but can potentially yield profits in return. Most of the porting work is already done, or at least I would think it is, leaving mainly menu layouts and the like left to fix for desktop use.
There has been no mention that Microsoft would support Linux but with their openness to support both Android and iOS (competitors to their own Windows Phone operating system for mobile devices) is proof they are willing to do it if they think there is a profit to be made.