Microsoft recently appointed Satya Nadella as Microsoft's new CEO, serving as Steve Ballmer's successor. Satya is the third CEO of Microsoft in the company's almost 40-year history. Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975. Not only is this a big deal for Wall Street, but it's also a big deal for Microsoft platform developers.
Now, normally a business change such as this wouldn't necessarily appear in an app dev editorial. But, let me tell you that this is exciting and great news for the Microsoft platform application development community. Because Satya is one of us; He gets it. Let me explain.
Satya came from the product teams at Microsoft. Not that he needs the cred, but he worked on the Windows NT product team, which developed over 65 million lines of code. I know; I worked on the NT option pack SKU that included the first real Internet server from Microsoft: IIS 4.0. I've met Satya a few times throughout the years, and I can tell you he understands the importance of the Microsoft platform developer as it directly relates to the success of Microsoft.
That's not to say that Steve Ballmer didn't 'get it.' He did get it for a long time. Steve Ballmer's "Developer! Developer! Developer! Developer!" company speech in 2006 is infamous. But that speech was delivered a long time ago, and it just seems like he let his executive team sway him into different areas of focus over the last few years. Also, it seems like the Microsoft platform developer and its programs and partners just seemed to fall by the way side of irrelevance, and in many cases there was anger and confusion. Worse yet, because of that lack of focus on the Microsoft platform developer, many of us dedicated Microsoft platform developers have wandered outside or completely away from the Microsoft platform.
What do I mean by anger and confusion? I don't think it's worth going into the gory, negative details because the upside of Satya's and his successor's hire are so hugely positive. But to many of us, it's obvious that many mistakes were made in the last few years without legitimate explanation to the dedicated Microsoft app dev community:
- When you focus on licensing in spite of adoption, negative complications are going to arise. If enterprise customers are constantly licensing new versions of Windows, Office, and other SKUs in the stack and Microsoft never helps to implement those products, then it's not unusual to see businesses fail to implement those products. Because they fail to implement those products and technologies, they are viewed negatively. When a product is licensed, Microsoft has to ensure that it's installed and implemented so that apps get created and thrive. Whether Microsoft likes it or not, it's still a tools, plumbing, and platform company. The reason developers are so important is that the apps and software they develop drive success of the platform. Apps bring functionality to devices. Ensure the adoption of the plumbing, platform, and tools and what software can do is practically endless -- and it's created by a developer.
- You just don't quietly hope to kill the single most beloved and successful Microsoft developer technology in history (Silverlight), without any explanation and expect not to get negative consequences.
- You don't introduce an entire new developer platform (WinRT) after a full decade of a mature and loved .NET without adequate explanation of why, guidance or adoption strategies, and expect not to have any negative consequences.
It's time to get those lost Microsoft platform developer folks back, and I'm confident this goal is at the top of Satya's list. But, the story gets even better: Scott Guthrie was promoted to take over Satya's old job, the 'interim' Cloud and Enterprise Executive Vice President at Microsoft. Scott is beloved in the Microsoft developer community. Since all that negative Microsoft developer stuff went down, Scott's been exiled into the safe hills of Azure, but now he's back full time in the global Microsoft organization and you better believe that Scott is one of us and intends on fixing things. My favorite Scott Guthrie story is how he created ASP.NET over a weekend. It's a long story about a 25-year-old Scott and his boss getting an idea and Scott saying, "Let me play around this weekend." The following Monday, it ended up as a demo of an ISAPI filter that Scott built, which was the proof of concept for ASP.NET.
I haven't talked to Satya Nadella or Scott Guthrie since their promotions, nor do I expect to do so in a timely manner. I'm not going to reach out to them right now because I know they are swamped in new jobs and trying to figure out where and when to strike. This is just pure informed speculation on my part because I know these guys and I know they "get it." Expect some revolutionary changes from Microsoft as it relates to the developer; only time will tell.