Microsoft Supports Bash, Ushers in 'Conversations as a Platform' Era

Microsoft announced support for the Bash Unix shell on Windows 10 and wades further into the cognitive world with Conversations as a Service.

Microsoft Bash

On Day One of its Build 2016 developer conference, Microsoft introduced a slew of new features, services and technologies including new innovations for Windows 10, new cognitive technology and new capabilities to help developers create smarter, more realistic games, among other things.

Both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group, spoke about what Microsoft called a new era of conversational intelligence Microsoft is attempting to facilitate to enable developers to create more personal computing for every customer, business and industry.

Nadella said Conversations as a Platform is a new emerging platform that is at the intersection of all of Microsoft's major ambitions, including cloud, Office Windows.

"It's a simple concept, yet it's very powerful in its impact," he said in his keynote. "It is about taking the power of human language and applying it more pervasively to all of our computing—and to infuse into our computing and our computers, intelligence about us and our context. By doing so, we think this can have as profound an impact as the previous platform shifts have had—whether it be GUI, whether it be the Web or touch or mobile."

However, perhaps the most applauded Microsoft announcement, at least early in the two-hour-long keynote, was the company's news that it was bringing the Bash Unix shell and command language to Windows 10. Windows 10 has support for native Bash with access to the Windows file system and the universe of open source command line tools.

"Bash was the thing with the most response from crowd till the end when they had the video and appearance with the vision-impaired developer," said Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Gartner. "That was strong motivational close." More on that to come later.

During his portion of the keynote, Microsoft engineer Kevin Gallo announced that you can now run Bash on Ubuntu on Windows. This is a new developer feature included in the Windows 10 "Anniversary" edition update expected this summer Myerson said. It lets you run native user-mode Linux shells and command-line tools unchanged, on Windows.

"For users of popular command-line tools, Windows 10 now has great support for Bash running on Ubuntu as part of our partnership with Canonical, and growing support for the universe of open-source command-line tools," Gallo said in a blog post. "Developers will be able to download the Bash shell from the Windows Store."

Added Scott Hanselman, another Microsoft engineer who was positive about the news: "This isn't Bash or Ubuntu running in a VM. This is a real native Bash Linux binary running on Windows itself. It's fast and lightweight and it's the real binaries. This is a genuine Ubuntu image on top of Windows with all the Linux tools I use like awk, sed, grep, vi, etc. It's fast and it's lightweight. The binaries are downloaded by you—using apt-get—just as on Linux, because it is Linux. You can apt-get and download other tools like Ruby, Redis, emacs, and on and on. This is brilliant for developers that use a diverse set of tools like me."

For his part, Rob Enderle, a longtime industry watcher and founder of the Enderle Group, referring to the Bash news, said, "Perhaps the biggest announcement was their embracing open source broadly and Linux with the clear realization that this move is already allowing them to work more intimately with developers and customers. The result is, with this help, they are able to advance far more quickly. Microsoft was, at one time, one of the most aggressive opponents to open source and Linux was largely created as an anti-Microsoft platform. This is almost like the Pope suddenly standing up and saying, 'you know what, women should be priests and be allowed to get married.'"