Microsoft will soon include an entire custom-built Linux kernel (version 4.19) within Windows 10. The move may be surprising to many considering Microsoft’s rather tepid response to the open-source OS these past few years, but it’s now aiding and abetting the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and spurring on Linux use.
There’s a little bit of a controversy in Linux land regarding whether Linux OS systems should be called Linux or rather GNU/Linux. We won’t get into all that but take note that when Windows is adding the Linux kernel, it’s doing just that. Microsoft is adding in the bit of low-level software responsible for all of the core operations on Linux-based systems… but accessible from within Windows. You’ll still have to download a GNU (OS), such as Ubuntu, to run with the newly-available Linux kernel – available either through the Windows Store or distribution package.
“Beginning with Windows Insiders builds this Summer, we will include an in-house custom-built Linux kernel to underpin the newest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL),” Jack Hammons, program manager for the Linux Systems Group, says within a blog post (via The Verge). “This marks the first time that the Linux kernel will be included as a component in Windows.”
Windows is promising to keep up-to-date with stable releases of the kernel as and when these long-term releases are made available. The kernel Microsoft will implement is purpose-built for WSL2, utilising what is essentially a lightweight VM and replacing the emulation architecture featured in WSL1.
The custom-built kernel will remain as open source as ever, and will be available on Github – one of Microsoft’s most recent acquisitions. The kernel will be made available first of all to users operating within the Windows Insider program. This is expected later this year, within the Windows 10 19H2 update.
Realistically the move will prove most valuable to devs hoping to streamline their work within Linux, making the process far easier and more streamlined within Windows. And this isn’t the only move from Microsoft to make Windows a happy space for developers.
Further hoping to simplify life for devs that may otherwise leave Windows for more greener pastures (Macbooks), the company is also rolling out a new command line application: Windows Terminal.
Targeting users that often find themselves within Windows Powershell, Command Line, or the aforementioned Windows Subsystem for Linux, Microsoft is fitting its terminal app with great new features such as: emojis, themes, multiple tabs, per tool profiles, and GPU-based text rendering. This is obtainable right now through GitHub, but will be freely available starting in June.