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Microsoft president and chief legal counsel Brad Smith has taken his turn at admitting Microsoft's former stance on open source put it on the "wrong side of history". In 2001 former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously said, "Linux is cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches." Shortly after that and for the same reason, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates described the open-source GPL (GNU General Public License) as "Pac-Man-like". Ballmer has since made peace with open source, and now Smith, who was one of Microsoft's top lawyers during its war on open source, has admitted he too was wrong about its approach to technology. "Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the beginning of the century, and I can say that about me personally," he said in a talk about hot computing topics at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). "The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn … that you need to change." Of course today – with an eye on cloud developers and as the owner of a code-sharing site GitHub – Microsoft approaches open source completely differently, even shipping Windows 10 with a custom Linux kernel for developers who use the Windows Subsystem for Linux. "Today, Microsoft is the single largest contributor to open-source projects in the world when it comes to businesses," said Smith. "When we look at GitHub, we see it as the home for open-source development, and we see our responsibility as its steward to make it a secure, productive home for [developers]." Smith also said that in 2013 president Obama warned top execs from Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook that they too would soon face scrutiny over privacy. Obama made the prediction at a roundtable with tech executives who were pushing for surveillance reforms following Edward Snowden's NSA leak, reminding them they held more data about people than the government did. Smith said the "political watershed moment" arrived with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which affected tens of millions of Facebook users and resulted in huge fines for Facebook. Tune into OUR FORUM to learn more.   

 

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