Don't blink. Microsoft is starting to pick up speed as it starts to implement drastic changes in the way it does business. Open sourcing of server software with ports to other operating systems, increasingly aggressive service bundling, support for WebRTC, and free Windows for mobile devices are evidence that cloud first and mobile first aren't just hot air. CEO Satya Nadella is shaking up Microsoft in a way that would have given Steve Ballmer a heart attack.
Announcing open sourcing of the .NET core framework with distributions for Linux and Microsoft OS X, as was done this week, would have had Ballmer's secretary dialing 911 and yelling for someone to perform CPR. Microsoft is even incorporating code contributions from developers OUTSIDE of Microsoft.
Developers will now have a fully supported, fully open source, fully cross platform .NET stack for creating server and cloud applications, including compilers, runtime, and higher-level .NET web, data, and API frameworks.
Did you know Microsoft loves Linux? It sounds like the punch line to a joke, but Microsoft's Azure cloud has more than 20 percent of its virtual machines Linux based. There are five different Linux distributions officially supported on Azure. With an official distribution of .NET Core for Linux, a shout-out to the Mono community for its work on .NET and Linux, if there's not Microsoft love, there's a good like going on for Linux.
Who knows what Mac lovers will think of the .NET core port to OS X, but that's not something Ballmer or Jobs would have been very comfortable with either.
Moving from software to services, Microsoft announced a $199 year subscription Work & Play bundle this week, including Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox MusicPass, and Skype Unlimited World and Wi-Fi. Office 365 gives you Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a terabyte of online storage through OneDrive while the Skype bundle gives free unlimited calls to landlines in 63 countries, mobile callers in 8 countries, and access to 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world with time payable in Skype credit on a per-minute basis. The Skype Unlimited World bundle alone would run about $168 per year if purchased at $13.99 per month, so there's a lot of value for $200.
WebRTC in Microsoft internet Explorer (IE) is on the way, with the only question being how soon IE will appear with integrated support. It also brings up the interesting question as to how deeply WebRTC will be supported in the cloud and in server software. WebRTC provides clean interoperability for voice, video, and IM across browsers. Microsoft is all about interoperability these days so long as it gets more people into services and on its cloud, so expect to see all sorts of WebRTC-related announcements in the weeks and months to come. It's important to remember while Microsoft would prefer to have a Windows-mobile world, current management knows Android and iOS are the dominating players. WebRTC provides another bridge to those operating systems.
Free Windows licenses for smaller mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets under 9 inches, and less powerful laptops have been offered for some time, but adding on Internet of Things (IoT) devices to the list provides another hook for Microsoft to get people onboard Azure services collecting, storing, and analyzing big data problems.
Open source, industry standards, and free licensing have been successful practices within the software field for years and decades. Microsoft is leveraging the trifecta to provide more on-ramps to get customers moved into cloud services and subscription plans.
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