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In the same week Microsoft announced it was snapping up text analysis software startup Equivio, the computing giant has now revealed it’s buying Revolution Analytics, a provider of commercial services for a programming language that’s used in statistical computing and predictive analytics.

The succinctly named “R” is one of the most popular languages used in data science, and Microsoft says it’s buying Revolution Analytics to “help more companies use the power of R and data science to unlock big data insights with advanced analytics,” according to its press release.

R is an open source software project, meaning it can be downloaded and accessed by anyone for free. Revolution Analytics’ business is based around services relating to R, which may include things like training and technical support.

If Microsoft buying Revolution Analytics just made your heart skip a beat, relax. The company says it will continue “supporting and evolving” both commercial and open source distributions of Revolution R across platforms.

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Open for business

Though Microsoft is often labeled a “closed” company, it has been making moves in the open source realm for a while.

Back in October, Microsoft revealed new partnerships with operating system startup CoreOS and big data company Cloudera. Then in November came the biggie – Microsoft’s plans to open-source its software framework .NET and release it on GitHub, with plans to target Mac OS X and Linux. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has previously said that “Microsoft loves Linux,” too.

Then just last month, Microsoft revealed it was open-sourcing its Worldwide Telescope astronomy software.

Looking even further back, however, Microsoft launched CodePlex in 2006 — a GitHub-style portal for hosting open-source projects. It then rolled out IronRuby, an open-source implementation of the Ruby programming language, in 2007.

Elsewhere, Microsoft itself has used the R programming language previously, for example, in matchmaking for online multiplayer games on Xbox.

So Microsoft now getting cosy with a company that specializes in software and services relating to R isn’t as surprising as first seems.

Start a Revolution

Microsoft already lets users create a virtual machine (VM) running Linux on its cloud-based Azure platform, so it had an open ethos in many regards anyway. And with Revolution Analytics on board, it’s targeting businesses, number-crunching data scientists, and R developers to more easily build tools and applications with advanced analytics at the core.

David Smith, chief community officer at Revolution Analytics, said that it will now be able to invest more in its R Project and Revolution R products, and said it will still sponsor local R user groups and events.

Though Microsoft has given assurances of its intentions to “foster the open source evolution of R,” it will be interesting to see what reception this deal gets in the R-programming community.

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