Microsoft has been making some unexpected acquisitions, far outside their core of Windows, Office apps, or even mobile. With the purchase of LinkedIn, and now Github, they’re definitely trying to build a network of technology related services that live outside the traditional Microsoft ecosystem.
Skype was the first of these, and it was killed off in an profitable arrangement with the telcos. But still sort of lives on as a weird collaboration tool. I take that back, Hotmail was a much earlier, external web-based service that was bought, and slowly, over several years, subsumed, until now it’s just a web front end for Outlook, and occasionally used for throwaway emails accounts.
And these sorts of acquisitions have one thing in common, user data. Skype and Hotmail were general end user apps, and have been inadvertently suffocated. But LinkedIn and Github are focused specifically on business users, specifically technology users, and both are the core platforms for gaining access to software developers. I can think of one other platform where someone might go to collect developer information…Stack Overflow.
Whether it’s driven by Nadella or not, I think Microsoft is trying to turn itself into a general IT services company, ala IBM. They know they’re legacy. Windows is dead (or will be once the hardware running the last Windows 7 PC dies) but there will still be a need for the applications run on it for a long time. (Just like IBM 360 mainframes.) But in order to keep developers thinking about Microsoft (so managers keep buying Microsoft support contracts) they need to own the toolchain that developers use.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the main goal of the acquisition is mining data for recruiter purposes. Microsoft alreay has a very close relationship with contract shops, having created the industry to get around full time employment laws in the 1980s, and many big recruiting/contractor firms are (or were) headquartered in the Seattle are and started by Microsoft employees.
Whether Microsoft will be able to capitalize on this is yet to be see. They have a track record of driving away users and rendering the data collection useless (see Hotmail & Skype). But I expect eventually to see recruiter spam through Github soon.
I love a good conspiracy theory. (Ask me about chemtrails and the moon landing sometime.)