Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub came as a surprise to many in the tech industry. Microsoft acquired GitHub, Inc. for $7.5 billion. This came as a big surprise because in 2001, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was against open source software and called it “cancer”. GitHub is usually associated with free and open source software. But once Satya Nadella took over as CEO, Microsoft’s views on open-source software has taken a sharp 180-degree turn. They now say “Microsoft loves Linux”, which is in complete disagreement to the proprietary nature of their products. Linux is a historically open source operating system, like Windows. So, let’s take a look at the salient points of this acquisition:
What is open-source software?
The term “open-source” software refers to software that can be inspected, viewed, edited and distributed by the public. Usually we see only the finished product of thousands of lines of code. The source code of Windows is proprietary and “closed”. On the other hand, Android is “open source”.
But with open source anyone can view the source-code and make any changes to it if required. A good example of this is the Oxygen OS over Android in OnePlus.
This code can also be used as a part of any other software we are building. Open-source software paves way for collaboration between developers from different parts of the world.
What is GitHub?
GitHub is the largest web-based hosting platform for open-source software. It was started in the year 2008. Its CEO was Chris Wanstrath (before the acquisition).
There are nearly 85 million repositories on GitHub. The entire project package will be known as a repository. The repository can be private or open to all. Users can “clone” or download the public repositories and run them on their local machines or use it for their projects.
So, what’s in it for Microsoft?
Microsoft is slowly losing its leverage over the developer community. GitHub is like Facebook for developers and this acquisition is to strengthen Microsoft’s position in the developer community. Satya Nadella has stated in his book Hit Refresh that the first task for him after he took over as CEO was to restore Microsoft’s work culture. This might be an effort to take the company back to its core values and principles like the “developers as customers” approach and support the developer community.
There has been a considerable shift in the Microsoft’s target market, from consumer side to the enterprise side. This shift has happened under Nadella. Now Windows and Microsoft Office are not the only top selling products. Microsoft Azure (Microsoft’s cloud computing platform) is one of the best cloud computing platforms. It is in a tough battle with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to gain supremacy in the cloud platform. So, the GitHub acquisition will boost Microsoft’s cloud-based services and also gives it an edge over its competitors.
Microsoft will first integrate its developer tools and enterprise/business tools with GitHub. Several companies already use private GitHub repositories for sharing source code within the company.
There have also been speculations that Windows and Office might go open-source. But this is unlikely to happen, because even today most of PCs and laptops run on Windows and hence is one of the major sources of revenue for Microsoft. But then, the number of these devices is decreasing. And Windows going open-source might be an incentive for many manufacturers to manufacture devices with pre-installed Windows and this increases Microsoft’s user base.
What does this mean for the developers?
GitHub has been facing some economic as well as leadership problems. So, this acquisition by Microsoft removes that and provides the required stability. Microsoft has appointed Nat Friedman as the new CEO of GitHub. The Azure based developer tools will now have a better reach. There might be an Azure Kernel linked with GitHub in the future.
The developer community feels that this acquisition has taken out “secularism” from the platform. Many fear that Microsoft will get access to the private repositories. Several developers have already switched over to other platforms like GitLab, Bitbucket etc. We will have to wait and watch whether the tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple retain or pull out their private repositories from GitHub.
So, is this good or bad?
Microsoft is now a new company under Nadella and its main motive is to empower the developer community by providing it with better tools. I can say this because in a competition organized by Microsoft, they provided us the Microsoft API’s for free with which we could integrate our apps. So, I can say is that Microsoft is truly committed to the developer community.
But it also needs revenue. And so, it will capitalize on the enterprise side. The GitHub marketplace will be improved with the help of Azure and Microsoft wants to make GitHub “the” place where developers collaborate and create great software. So, we need to play the waiting game to see how this acquisition turns out.