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Microsoft, Github, and Zebra Stripes

The reaction to Microsoft acquiring Github says a lot about how tough it is for Microsoft to change the image it built in the 90’s. John Edwards explains Why Microsoft’s GitHub Deal Isn’t a Sign of the Apocalypse – “Fear not, developers. The open source development community will thrive, no matter who’s running the show.” Somebody’s got to pay the bills. Github is just the latest item added to Microsoft’s toolbox. Also consider .net, Windows 10, and VS Code.

The real reason Microsoft open sourced .NET By Mary Branscombe (CIO, 1/27/2016) – “DevOps, microservices, and the shift to containers and lightweight computing environments explain a lot about Microsoft’s position on .NET, open source and Nano Server.”

“The shift in how enterprises want to do development explains a lot about the open sourcing of .NET and ASP.NET as well. Partly, it’s to get the community involved – taking advantage of the ideas and expertise of developers who embrace open source projects.

Microsoft also wants to bring these technologies to Linux, in large part because of Azure. Running a cloud platform gives Microsoft an interest in Linux that goes far beyond the open source contributions the Windows Server team has been making to the Linux kernel so that distributions run will on its Hyper-V hypervisor.

Microsoft moves on open source .Net, ramps up multilanguage tools By Paul Krill (InfoWorld, June 27, 2016) – “Company embraces Linux, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and will show SQL Server on Red Hat’s Linux

In other words, there is a shift in revenue source from software sales to service and support. Github earned its income by providing cloud based project services for in-house commercial development efforts with the FOSS support a community relations thing. Microsoft is doing the same but it has a much broader base of services to provide better economic security.

All of this is part and parcel of revolutionary change in entrepreneurship. The first twenty years of Microsoft were ‘old school’ business. The last twenty has been a change from product development and sales to a product service support paradigm. Amazon, Google, Facebook and others have made their fortunes figuring out what it is that represents value and in how to leverage that value to income.

The revolution in the advertising and marketing business has, perhaps, been most visible. The information needs of these businesses has raised many concerns as newer technologies made a difficult and expensive proposition into a massive and inexpensive one. The economies of scale at Google and Facebook have moved many independent efforts to use their services.

Sales and financial transactions have also become more direct and less expensive. From paper checks in the mail to touch tone telephone bill pay to today’s online forms have all put more economy of scale into the process as well as streamlining processes.

Even the logistics have changed from Amazon’s wharehouses to Walmart’s grocery shopping online.

Microsoft is adapting. It’s change from sales of high price software towards using software as a marketing tool indicates that it sees how its source of profits must change. It’s making its technologies more easily available to a broader community as open source and cross platform. That builds image and that, in turn, provides exposure to its support and services.

The processes may have turned over but the revolution is not complete. There are still major changes ahead providing both opportunity and risk. We do live in interesting times.