For the first time ever, Microsoft will distribute its own version of Linux

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  • Microsoft on Monday announced Azure Sphere, a new technology designed to protect the processors that power smart appliances, connected toys, and other gadgets.

  • Azure Sphere is powered in large part by Linux, a free operating system that Microsoft once viewed as a major threat.

  • It’s the first time that Microsoft has made Linux part of a product offering.

Microsoft announced on Monday a new technology called Azure Sphere, a new system for securing the tiny processors that power smart appliances, connected toys, and other gadgets.

We’ll get to the specifics in a moment, but here’s the really notable part: To power Azure Sphere, Microsoft has developed a custom version of Linux, the free open-source operating system that Microsoft once considered the single biggest threat to the supremacy of its Windows software.

“After 43 years, this is the first day that we are announcing – and will be distributing – a custom Linux kernel,” Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said onstage at an event in San Francisco.

Smith said that by Microsoft’s reckoning, the fact that most new gadgetry comes with a processor is cause for concern.

In 2016, unsecured cameras and other appliances were harnessed by bad guys to mount a massive cyberattack that took down major websites for hours. Two years later, people are still buying smart gadgets, but security hasn’t always kept up.

Azure Sphere takes a combined approach to this problem, using hardware, software, and the cloud.

First, Microsoft has designed a more powerful kind of microprocessor that the company says it will make available to chip manufacturers for free.

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