• February 2020
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Microsoft’s Newest Acquisition: What the Future May Hold for Developers running Projects on Github

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The future is open-source. Not everyone believes in that statement, in particular, not the Microsoft corporation of 10 years ago. But if the success if Github is anything to go by, the future is indeed open-source. Github, a web hosting service for computer code, is the largest host of source code in the world. Its amount of repositories has grown 80-fold over the past 8 years, and it currently supports about 27 million users. Github projects have become the standard course of action for developers.


And, if we did not expect Microsoft’s acquisition of Github, that’s on us: Microsoft’s recent moves towards open-source and cloud-hosted services have been hard to miss. Think, for example, of Windows 10, and Office 365. And in a continuation of that trend, for a whopping $7.5 billion, Github is to become the newest Microsoft subsidiary. What does this mean for developers?


Perhaps not Much, Judging at Past Microsoft Acquisitions

Although the widespread uncertainty around the future of Github has had a chilling effect on developers since Microsoft’s acquisition plans became public, this might be an overreaction. At least, if we can trust lessons from the past. Microsoft has seemed quite content to leave acquisitions relatively unchanged, and in particular set upon not changing the experience of current users.


Microsoft’s acquisitions of LinkedIn and Minecraft seems to support this theory. If Microsoft follows the same approach with GitHub, the company is unlikely to do anything drastic that will augment the experience of current users. Instead, Microsoft’s focus has been on enhancing integration with other Microsoft products, luring users into their broader ecosystem.


The most educated bet is exactly this: no drastic changes in the day-to-day user experience of Github, but with increased integration.


Integration with the Microsoft Ecosystem

Many expect Microsoft’s first big step to be the integration of GitHub with its own development suite, Virtual Studio. The idea would get more people “under the Microsoft umbrella”, so to speak. In other words, Microsoft’s acquisitions are being utilized as on-ramps into its environment, rather than as standalone products.


How far this integration is likely to go will largely depend on how deep Microsoft is willing to wade into the open-source world, and that remains to be seen.


Enhanced Organizational Coherence

This is perhaps the biggest hope for development teams in companies currently running projects on GitHub. Some optimists foresee GitHub becoming the de facto standard for businesses everywhere. This is because Microsoft has the ability to integrate GitHub not only with its developer tools, but also with its extensive suite of business tools. This has the potential to bring non-developers and non-technical workers and departments closer to the code.


Many believe that this is the future of the modern business: a developer-driven organization that optimizes for collaboration, communication, and business outcomes that are all driven by, and aligned to, what the developers are creating. If that is what the future holds, GitHub’s integration with Microsoft Office seems like a big step in the right direction.


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