Apr 3, 2015 · 1 minute

An open source version of Windows is "definitely possible," Microsoft technical fellow Mark Russinovich said during a panel at Chef, a development conference.

That said, as Wired notes in its report on Russinovich's remarks, this hypothetical open platform isn't going to be released to the public any time in the near future:

Certainly, Microsoft won’t open source the thing tomorrow—if ever. Windows is still such a big part of the Microsoft revenue stream. And as Russinovich says, open sourcing such a complex piece of code isn’t easy [...] But Microsoft is already giving away one version of Windows for free (though not sharing the underlying code). And it has already open sourced other important pieces of its software empire. If nothing else, his very public comments show—in stark fashion—how much the tech world has evolved. And how much Microsoft has evolved.
It's not hard to see how open sourcing Windows might benefit Microsoft, especially after the revelation of National Security Agency surveillance programs which make it harder than ever to trust proprietary software platforms like iOS and yes, Windows. While Microsoft has claimed that it improved its products' security in the wake of the NSA revelations, the problem with proprietary software is that it's impossible for researchers to independently confirm that it doesn't have any backdoors or other vulnerabilities which intelligence agencies can exploit to spy on people.

Allowing people to examine an open source version of Windows could go a long way toward restoring trust in the operating system. Even if Microsoft was an unimpeachably trustworthy company, users can't simply take it at its word. That's because tech companies are forbidden from revealing some government requests, and moreover there may be software vulnerabilities of which the companies themselves are unaware.

There might never be an open source version of Windows. But it's clear Microsoft has discussed the possibility of opening up its platform to the public. And if that happens, it might just be able to restore some of the trust it's lost in recent years. That could be the most valuable thing Windows has done for Microsoft in a very long time.