As the platform where so many of the world's developers build today's apps, GitHub has an outsized influence on the code that gets made. With Microsoft buying GitHub for $7.5 billion, people are naturally going to ask how this will impact the future of software.
SEE: GitHub: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
In its official statement about on the acquisition, Microsoft asserted, "GitHub will retain its developer-first ethos and will operate independently to provide an open platform for all developers in all industries."
That's similar to the approach that Microsoft has taken with Linkedin, which has been one of its most successful acquisitions--unlike its high-profile fumbles with Nokia and Yammer.
However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also stressed that as part of the acquisition the company will "bring Microsoft's developer tools and services to new audiences."
Since GitHub lost $66 million in nine months of 2016, according to a Bloomberg report, Microsoft will have to do something to make this massive investment worth seven billion. Using GitHub to sell online tools to developers makes sense as part of the solution, but it will also need to do more.
Microsoft has made a major push into becoming a cross-platform app developer in recent years--pushing versions of Office across the web, Android, and iOS, rather than concentrating most of its firepower on Office for its own Windows platform.
But, Microsoft also still wants to be a platform player, because controlling platforms equal profit as a middleman. For example, the company has invested in its Microsoft Launcher for Android, which allows it to take over the Android home screen and user experience.
It's not hard to imagine a scenario where Microsoft wants to use its cozy relationship with developers via GutHub to peddle access to the Microsoft Launcher home screen on Android. That said, it's still a very small percentage of users that opt to override their default Android home screen with Microsoft's version.
The biggest trend to watch will be whether Microsoft potentially shapes GitHub to incent certain kinds of apps to get built or for developers to use certain Microsoft products like Azure. Those are the kinds of things that could impact the shape of the app economy.
Still, some developers are already balking at the idea of GitHub being controlled by one of the big tech companies. As a result, GitLab and other alternatives are seeing an uptick in usage. So if Microsoft gets too overbearing with app developers and doesn't add enough value, there are other options that developers can jump to.
All in all, that should keep Microsoft honest and keep the acquisition from having too many negative implications on the app ecosystem. The onus is on Microsoft to add value to the platform--like making apps faster and cheaper to build, and easier to bring to more potential customers. For consumers, that result would be less expensive premium apps and faster releases and updates--if Microsoft and GitHub can combine to deliver something better.
- Microsoft's Github acquisition: It's all about developer relationships, influence (ZDNet)
- Microsoft acquires GitHub for $7.5B to solidify developer ties (CNET)
- Microsoft reportedly agrees to acquire GitHub (CNET)
- Microsoft has been talking to GitHub about possible acquisition: Report (ZDNet)
- If Microsoft buying GitHub freaks you out, here are your best alternatives (TechRepublic)
- Why Linkedin + GitHub profiles could be the hidden gem in $7.5B Microsoft acquisition (TechRepublic)
- With GitHub acquisition, Microsoft wants to make Azure the default cloud for developers (TechRepublic)