Wow… talk about some surprises from Microsoft

Well… Build 2016 certainly started out with a bang…  For some reason Microsoft is having a complete love affair with Linux.  Between buying Xamarin, SQL Server for Linux, and today’s announcement that bash will be native in Windows 10.  Oh, let’s not forget that .NET for Linux/Mac and ASP.NET for Linux/Mac are real things, too, and fairly close to shipping.

“Wow, this is great!”, you say.  On the initial announcement, yeah, this seems like a great idea, something developers have been clamoring for for YEARS.  No more Cygwin, no more crazy emulators, native everything Linux on a Windows box!

But, as Charles Dickens wrote in the tale of two cities, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

After getting over my initial giddiness of these VERY cool announcements, the question that came to mind is ‘WHY!?!?’  Why is Microsoft doing this?  This isn’t just a ‘hey, lets do some cool experiments to get developers back’.  These are very serious investments that are not being done on a lark.

First off, the Linux love affair seems to have started with Satya Nadella.  I think under Steve Balmer, the words Linux, Unix, and OS X (and iOS) were banned.  Microsoft had not successfully done cross platform software since the early days of Excel for the Mac, and porting it to Windows.  Windows for Alpha, and Windows for Itanium never took off.  Office for Mac was a red-headed step child.  Heck, even getting Windows Mobile to run on the phones proved to be a huge challenge.

Since Mr. Nadella took charge, Linux has not only been unbanned, but it has completely been embraced.  It started with the Mac and either Silverlight or Office.  Since OS X is based upon BSD Unix, Microsoft had to come up with tools to allow them to develop for the Mac.  Microsoft started out slow, but lately, they have been able to bring a pretty good parity to Office for the Mac.  In doing so, they have build up some better understanding of developing for Unix, and are now applying that to Linux.

The one thing that worries me is that Microsoft seems to be developing somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Microsoft under Bill Gates and Steve Balmer would have always been ‘we think ours is better, deal with it’.  They would be almost as arrogant as Steve Jobs.  The new Microsoft is almost apologetic.  ‘Hey, we want to be where the cool stuff is, and we realize our stuff isn’t cool’.  Which is sad, considering that the latest Visual Studio is awesome, Powershell is cool, and Windows 10 is probably the best OS they’ve ever done.

Am I excited by what Microsoft is producing?  Sure!  I love the fact that my skill set will start to be more cross-platform.  I just want to know ‘why’.  Yes, I understand this will help Azure, and that is where the future of Microsoft probably is.  But, this seems like a LOT of resources are being poured into this Linux initiative, and there doesn’t seem like a way that Microsoft will make money.  Microsoft is not Google, where they only play with cool.

 

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Thoughts on Microsoft…

I’m an Apple fanboi.  I love how I have very little trouble with my hardware and software integration.  But… I make my living as a .NET (C# & VB) developer.  So, I like to at least TRY to keep up with Microsoft…  And there’s a LOT to keep up with, and lately, they have been very good!

Over the summer Microsoft launched both Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10.  To the tech industry, these have both been very bold steps.  Windows 10 has been build one the concept of ‘update often’.  Microsoft is seeding updates to Windows 10 to the testing community almost every other week.  And yes, it needs it, but that’s because Microsoft is trying something very different.  They are actually listening to their customers and trying to address concerns as quickly as possible.  It is refreshing.  Windows 10 does have some issues, but they seem to be getting better with each iteration.  As an end user, I’ve been VERY thrilled at how Window 10 is doing, and it makes me happy to be a .NET developer.  The Visual Studio IDE is awesome, and having a OS that helps rather than hinders is great.

Microsoft ALSO had a hardware announcement recently.  From all appearances, Microsoft is finally tired of waiting for a partner to step up and create interesting, innovative hardware.  Microsoft has finally decided to follow Apple in creating both the hardware and the software.  The latest Windows Phones, Surface Pro 4, and the new Surface Book are all great products that I hope do well.  Yes, they are much higher on the cost scale than most ‘normal’ Windows boxes, but, in my opinion, I think that they NEED to be.  We, as consumers, want everything to be free or cheap.  Unfortunately, if a company does not make money, there’s no way to provide a product and/or support.  That’s one of the things with cheap hardware is that there’s usually no one to support it.  I love the fact that Microsoft IS charging more.  I’d gladly recommend a Surface Pro to someone needing a Windows tablet.  Heck, I may even pick one up for myself!

I think Microsoft is definitely on the right track, after floundering for the last 7 or 8 years.  Hopefully, they will continue to improve!