New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Voices


Imagine you’re Satya Nadella.

You’ve just taken the helm of the world’s largest software provider, but the company faces threats from almost every direction. What’s your biggest problem? What must you do, above all else?

Your first problem is not R&D. Microsoft’s R&D is in comparatively good shape — nothing like the starving, demoralized organization Meg Whitman faced when she took the reins at Hewlett-Packard, and has been fighting to reinvigorate since. Microsoft spends $10 billion annually in R&D, more even than Google.

Organic innovation isn’t dead, either, despite what many say. Take Microsoft’s announcement of a smart contact lens, which predated Google’s announcement of the same by a full two years.

What about “the cloud”? Surely this is it: When you’re a legacy enterprise vendor, the cloud is always the source of — and solution to — every problem. The trouble with the cloud, at least in its PaaS/IaaS embodiment, is that it’s driving otherwise sane companies to throw enormous capital into a fast-commoditizing business. This cloud is a race to the price bottom that Amazon has already won.

But if Microsoft’s chief need isn’t bigger R&D, or more drastic innovation, or a broader cloud, then what is it?

Developers.

That word doesn’t appear in Nadella’s introductory letter to the company, but it should. The largest threat facing Microsoft is its irrelevance to new generations of developers, particularly mobile developers. And the company’s first-order need is for a true, modern developer ecosystem.

The fact remains that it was the iPhone, much more than any cloud, that blew the Wintel world to smithereens. With their mobile devices and App Store, Apple has set the model for the modern developer ecosystem. Apple has paid out more than $10 billion to developers via the App Store — half of it within the last year alone.

Of course, the relationship has been more than mutually beneficial. Apple now boasts a huge, diverse ecosystem of developers, innovating at a pace that no R&D org can match, driving an ever-exploding array of new capabilities to the company’s flagship platform. Google was quick to catch on, encouraging its own rival ecosystem with an open source alternative, and by standing up Google Play.

But Microsoft …?

The irony is that behind initiatives like MSDN, Microsoft was one of the original creators of great developer ecosystems. It was the mutual embrace between Microsoft and devs that helped drive the company’s software onto so many machines, and then keep it there.

Unfortunately — predictably — that monopoly position turned Microsoft into a bully. The company began to view openness and playing well with others as traits for also-rans that couldn’t afford to do otherwise. This attitude was perfectly mirrored in Steve Ballmer, a domineering salesman who had grown up in the desktop world that Microsoft owned.

With the appointment of Nadella, the company seems finally to be acknowledging how dead and buried that old world is. This is the man who used a Maca Mac — onstage at Build. His aim? To show how Azure could be used to create iOS apps. (In the same appearance, he demonstrated how Google Chrome could be set as the default browser for websites built with Microsoft tools.)

It doesn’t hurt, either, that Nadella is an engineer, giving him the advantage of being “one of us.” Even if Ballmer had wanted to throw open the door to non-Microsoft talents, what independent developer would have trusted him?

Not that convincing devs will be easy for Nadella. In an Appcelerator survey of nearly 7,000 mobile developers, conducted jointly with IDC, we see that Microsoft has spent the last three years stuck in neutral for developer interest. And despite Nadella’s stewardship, even the plaudits for Azure’s ease of use come mainly from Microsoft-centric shops. If you’re a developer building apps in JavaScript, Java or Objective-C, Azure isn’t likely to be a destination for cloud services.

For Nadella to turn Microsoft’s fortunes, he’ll have to do what would have been unthinkable under Ballmer: Make non-Microsoft technology stacks and languages into first-class citizens, coequal with every Microsoft offering. In this, it may prove easier to change the technologies than the perceptions. But it’s here that Satya Nadella gives Microsoft its best chance.

Jeff Haynie is CEO of Appcelerator, the leading mobile enterprise platform company. Follow him on Twitter at @jhaynie.



6 comments
VB Programming
VB Programming

Microsoft is irrelevant for modern development tools - Mobile or JavaScript; while at the same time ignoring older programming languages such as VB6.


So now they are betting the farm on Azure ? My money is on Amazon.

Radu
Radu

True.

And, while at that, start by restoring the VB community as equal citizens after they've been bullied into a corner and forced to C# conversion for the past few years.
That would serve as a good warm-up exercise.


abstract
abstract

The only problem Microsoft has is that it believes that Apple is the problem: They fear Apple.


Many think the same. This article, for instance, is another bet to point out what may Apple have that Microsoft is missing.


But the real fact is that Microsoft is lacking... inspiration (I don't think Apple is in really better position now that Jobs is gone, .... time will tell).


So Microsoft is lacking inspiration and appointed CEO that "looking-like-Jobs" guy. There problem actually remains the same, they are just now relying on magics.


The fact is that Microsoft has lost is way. It has long been a leading company, I don't think it is able to thing as a challenged company.


Chances are big that Microsoft follows IBM's path... again.


BSalita
BSalita

Microsoft opened the barn door and gave a push to the developer community. I agree. To reverse the situation, Microsoft needs to give new developers compelling reasons to choose Microsoft over other platforms. How can they do that? Execute well on one or more of the following; open source Windows, create an insanely great AI platform (Kinect++) without peer, turn Visual Studio into the cross-platform development system of choice (Xamarin approach), make Windows fortress secure with broad hardware support (back to RT strategy). @IanWaring, I'm going to look at Digital Ocean. Thanks.

IanWaring
IanWaring

His main threat is that the world is racing to public clouds based on Linux stacks. Amazon isn't the only answer - look how Digital Ocean has the hearts and minds of all the small developers, and is ripping all the devs out of AWS and (much more heavily according to Netcraft stats) Rackspace.

If he killed -ve advertising (Scroogle stuff), checked out of demanding money with menaces from Android OEMs, and undid the labyrinth of paid lobbyist shills who just try to trip up their competitors with govt institutions, he'd put all the positives about Microsofts brand back to prominence. Until then, he's selling soiled goods.

selfstyledexpert
selfstyledexpert

"Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers." -- Steve Ballmer, 2008

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 300,390 other followers