Buying GitHub – A very smart move by Microsoft !


I have been wanting to write this from the time I saw the first tweet on the topic few days ago. Lets just say life got in the way . Also, as always – this is just my personal point of view and not that of my employer.

For what its worth – the visual I had in my mind when I saw this news was of Satya Nadella typing “git init” on a black command line interface 🙂

As with all such news – the first two questions that came up were 1. Is it worth 7.5B dollars? and 2. Why Microsoft ?

$7.5B is a big amount to pay for any company, especially one that only generates $300M or so. So clearly MS was not buying this for revenue – or at least not just for revenue alone.

The most obvious reason is that this is a good way to get 28 million developers attracted to  Azure. It needs to be done with finesse as it will be a disaster if developers feel bad about it and leave in large numbers. Success of a platform is a function of the quality and quantity of developers building stuff on it. Given Satya has pivoted MS to be a cloud company, this is a very smart way to get access to several million developers in one shot.

Software development always was a social activity . When I started as a developer, Clearcase and Visual Sourcesafe were the primary options for repos. And between whiteboard and emails we used to resolve “contentious” issues. Github formalized the “dysfunctional family” nature of development teams to a sustainable method. Passive aggressive nature is now easier to demonstrate via pull requests than ” reply all” email threads 🙂 . I think GitHub also reminds us every day that software development is a journey, not a destination. Nothing ever is finished 🙂 . And special kudos for doing all this without spamming us with ads !

Its not a beginner’s tool kit – I still am afraid to do merges and I have been a developer a long time. But – despite its quirks, without GitHub I doubt software development ( definitely the open source side ) would not have made the kind of progress in the last decade.

Microsoft being a software powerhouse – and especially since they have found religion on open source – I generally think GitHub will only improve in functionality. And maybe even less scary to use for less experienced developers. And MS is very active on GitHub themselves – and most of us useVS Code and Typescript routinely. Their own products have also moved in many cases to opensource from .Net . No one will question the credentials in opensource for Friedman, the new CEO from MS for GitHub either. One of the first things he said was that investment in Atom will continue in parallel with VS Code, and that there won’t be ads in public repos – clearly showing empathy for developers who passionately love their tools.  So there is no shortage of authenticity and consequently MS can expect to get some respect from the dev community. I generally don’t expect to see mass defection of developers elsewhere.

There is one more aspect on the acquisition that interest me. MS had recently bought Linkedin. As someone who hires a lot of people every year – especially technical talent – I can’t help but admire the strategy from that perspective. When I hire an engineer, I check their linkedin profile, and I check GitHub to see their code. I can’t wait to see what integration will happen between the two.

Having the functionality of GitHub provides MS with a lot of product possibilities – from the obvious idea of integrating with their existing toolkit, but also perhaps using the same idea of collaborative development to non code scenarios. MS potentially can also give some turbo charge to GitHub Market place. I am very curious and will be watching the space closely.

With all the goodness comes plenty of headaches too. Facebook was cool till the Russia thing came up and questions started getting asked on what FB is actually responsible for. GitHub has 85 million repos. What will a big company like MS be held responsible for what gets developed there ? What about free and competitive software that potentially hurts MS revenue or worse perhaps invade someone’s privacy and security ? What about some country insisting on censoring ? Its a lot of headache if things go wrong – so I hope their business case tells them its net goodness despite the potential for problems.

So all in all – I think this was a very good move by MS.

 

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2 thoughts on “Buying GitHub – A very smart move by Microsoft !

  1. Love that aspect of LinkedIn and GitHub combination. Think further to the future of work, where some think most people not being employed full time anymore. An ecosystem will be built on top of the gig economy who’s central spot will be somewhere between Github and LinkedIn. Microsoft is well positioned to benefit from that massive trend.

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  2. Super smart move to get millions of users to embrace azure tools. Envision them as spokespeople in their respective organization when these organizations make IT investment decisions where learning curve is a key. Regarding the price tag, you being in Silicon Valley know more about strategic shareholder value then rest of us 🙂

    Like

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