The battle for hearts and minds heats up

Microsoft bought GitHub. Honestly, this is not really that big a surprise to anyone paying attention to the shifting cloud software market. Sure fundamentally it is a surprise because it wasn’t hinted at, and sure maybe Microsoft feels like a surprise purchaser of Git, but ultimately it all boils down to something I have been saying for a few years now – the battleground for tech now is the hearts and minds of its developers

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Git needed help – they were having not great financial success, and their former CEO got the axe because of sexual harassment accusations, so leaderless since this time last year and with dwindling revenue, the Git hub side makes all the sense in the world. They just had to choose who was the right suitor, and if you have ever heard Microsoft Chairman Satya Nadella speak, you know he would be the choice. He really believes in the open future of code and most importantly about making developers part of it. That Git sold to Microsoft is also not any surprise at all.

For Microsoft the equation was almost comically MUCH simpler. Now, when you think of Git (which almost every dev does, every day), you will invariably think of Microsoft too. That is a smart strategic win for Microsoft. Other pundits have said something similar about this move, and I want to echo that with a slightly different perspective. As an evangelist, working with developers is my day job, and understanding their needs and moving my company in adapting to meet them is my stated goal. That means that awareness of the developer landscape and most importantly what that landscape is doing is paramount. Microsoft has that business on lock.

Microsoft has been slowly and steadily building one of the most effective and high-achieving developer-centered programs for access to their platform in the industry. There are other programs out there, and they all frankly fall short compared to Microsoft’s. With that as the frame of reference, this acquisition is really just a logical evolution of what they were doing already; building out comprehensive, developer-focused tools and solutions, backed by a highly driven and capable team, to secure the hearts and minds of developers. Overnight, Microsoft has now become the center of the developer universe by acquiring the location that everyone was already putting their code in the first place. This includes now having direct contact with a multitude of corporations and customers who use Git’s paid products and enterprise repos, as well as anyone doing anything meaningful in open source.

Do not be surprised to see a sudden burst of activity from the likes of Amazon, Google, and the also rans of IBM and Oracle around their own code repo tech, and of course the usual spate of FUD about how “Microsoft can now steal your code” and Microsoft wants to control how people use the platform. If it was on Git, IT WAS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC ALREADY. (unless you paid to hide it) If you were paying to hide it, it is still hidden and Microsoft actually doesn’t gain by knifing this critical constituency in the back. If anything, allowing Git to continue as is, with evolutionary changes as they have to this point is the better business move. There is nothing Microsoft gains from reading your code that they couldn’t have gained for free. Buying Git was never about the code, it’s about the users, and the data. It always is.

Now that Microsoft has the vehicle, an open future (including the long discussed open-source of Windows itself) now seems a much more likely outcome. Microsoft has already made the game about the cloud and is handling that business so open-source Windows is really just a logical offload of the old stuff anyway. The battleground now is what’s next and the warriors are developers. Win those hearts and minds and you win the war for the long-haul. This acquisition represents the most concrete salvo to date in that battle and the one that is most likely to keep MS on top.

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