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article imageMicrosoft's new open source mission sees PowerShell come to Linux

By James Walker     Aug 19, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft is continuing its commitment to supporting other platforms by bringing its previously Windows-exclusive PowerShell scripting language to Linux and Mac OS X. It has also open-sourced PowerShell as part of its new company-wide open ethos.
Microsoft has undergone some major changes since CEO Satya Nadella took the helm a few years ago. Amongst them is its new-found commitment to Linux and open-source software, a stance that has seen it begin open-sourcing its own technology. Just a few years ago, such an approach would have been unthinkable for Microsoft.
The latest development in the "Microsoft loves Linux" multi-platform reality is the open-sourcing of PowerShell. PowerShell is a powerful scripting language for Windows PCs and servers, designed to supersede the DOS commands of the traditional Command Prompt.
PowerShell offers similar capabilities to Linux shells such as Bash. With the recently launched Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft brought Bash to Windows. It's now possible to run a native Linux shell on your Windows PC because Microsoft has created an entire Linux subsystem that runs on top of Windows. Now, it's giving something back to the Linux community, by releasing PowerShell on the platform.
The work has been achieved by porting the underlying technology behind PowerShell to run on Linux. Its .NET scripting language is now available to Linux developers, enabling the creation of cross-platform scripts that run on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Microsoft is going one step further than bringing PowerShell to Linux by also launching it on Apple's platform.
While the significance of this move in particular is slim for consumers, there is importance to be found in the wider principles Microsoft is demonstrating. Microsoft opened its announcement by stressing its awareness of being in a "multi-platform, multi-cloud, multi-OS world." It's no longer enough for it to build Windows tools for Windows and then charge a fee to use it.
Microsoft pointed out how it's an active contributor to several open-source projects, including Linux, Docker and OpenSSH. It has adopted a company-wide ethos of sharing its technology with others and making it available to as many people as possible, regardless of their platform preference. PowerShell extends that, allowing system administrators and developers to standardise on a single scripting language across all their machines.
With Microsoft going all-out on sharing code with others, it's possible it could begin to drag in other industry leaders such as Google and Apple. Apple is famously reluctant to bring its services to other platforms or publish its code to the world. So was Microsoft only three years ago, however. The company's proactive approach to supporting every platform could encourage other firms to do likewise, which would be positive for the entire industry.
"Today’s customers live in a multi-platform, multi-cloud, multi-OS world – that’s just reality. This world brings new challenges and customers need tools to make everything work together," said Jeffrey Snover, Technical Fellow of Microsoft's Enterprise Cloud Group. "Microsoft is working company-wide to deliver management tools that empower customers to manage any platform, from anywhere, on any device, using Linux or Windows. This shift to a more open, customer-obsessed approach to deliver innovation is one of the things that makes me most excited to come to work every day."
Part of Microsoft's new focus involves being open about its own projects. It admitted PowerShell is still early in its open-sourcing. It also confessed it's still learning how best to manage open-source projects. It said it is still in the "beginning stages and in learning mode," requesting help from other developers to help it achieve its aims. That's a very different stance on collaborative coding from Microsoft, a company that didn't use to believe in open-source and the world beyond Windows at all.
Developers interested in running PowerShell on a Mac or on Linux can download the necessary bits from Microsoft's GitHub account today. It's also possible to peer through the source of PowerShell for the first time, extending it with new features or helping Microsoft to make PowerShell a "first class citizen" on Linux.
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