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Microsoft launches Azure Sphere, its first product with a custom Linux kernel

Microsoft Azure Sphere components (Source: Blog | Microsoft Azure)
Microsoft Azure Sphere components (Source: Blog | Microsoft Azure)
Although Microsoft's former CEO, Steve Ballmer, called it a few years ago nothing less than "a cancer," Linux is now at the core of an IoT solution that comes from Redmond. Azure Sphere includes microcontrollers, a cloud-based security service, and an operating system that includes a custom Linux kernel.
Codrut Nistor,
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Although Steve Ballmer changed his stance on Linux in March 2016, 15 years before that moment he described the open-source operating system as "a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches." Yesterday, the Redmond giant announced the preview of Microsoft Azure Sphere, an IoT solution that includes a custom Linux kernel.

The official blog post that was published by Galen Hunt, Microsoft Azure Sphere Partner Managing Director, describes this product as "a new solution for creating highly-secured, Internet-connected microcontroller (MCU) devices." As shown in the image above, Microsoft Azure Sphere consists of three main components:

  • Certified microcontrollers (MCUs): a new class that combines real-time and application processors with custom silicon Microsoft security technology and connectivity inspired by the Xbox
  • Security service: a cloud service that provides device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication and detects security threats via online failure reporting
  • Operating system: an IoT operating system that combines security innovations pioneered in Windows, a security monitor, and a custom Linux kernel

While it will probably take a while for Azure Sphere to reach most of us, this move means a lot for the open-source world. Linus Torvalds, the father of the Linux operating system, once said: "If Microsoft ever does applications for Linux it means I've won." Although Microsoft has been doing such applications for a while, now it is the first time they come up with a custom Linux kernel. 

Although it seems nothing more than an impossible dream now, we might see a "Linux by Microsoft" operating system for desktop devices in a few years. After all, Microsoft working with open-source code or supporting Linux in any way sounded like a fairy tale less than two decades ago.

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Codrut Nistor
Codrut Nistor - Senior Tech Writer - 5427 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2013
In my early school days, I hated writing and having to make up stories. A decade later, I started to enjoy it. Since then, I published a few offline articles and then I moved to the online space, where I contributed to major websites that are still present online as of 2021 such as Softpedia, Brothersoft, Download3000, but I also wrote for multiple blogs that have disappeared over the years. I've been riding with the Notebookcheck crew since 2013 and I am not planning to leave it anytime soon. In love with good mechanical keyboards, vinyl and tape sound, but also smartphones, streaming services, and digital art.
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Codrut Nistor, 2018-04-17 (Update: 2018-04-17)