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Posted on Thursday, March 9, 2017 8:16 AM

Stijn Degrieck by Stijn Degrieck

You most probably know that Microsoft is the world’s largest contributor to the open source community on the popular GitHub platform, no? That’s right. When it comes to sharing code for open development and collaboration, it is leaving behind companies like Facebook, Google and Red Hat. All this is the result of a major strategic shift initiated by Steve Ballmer, and accelerated by Satya Nadella. One that will allow Microsoft to transform to a full-blown Software-as-a-Service company.

In a letter to all employees two years ago, Satya Nadella, who had just been appointed CEO, said: “Our strategy is to build best-in-class platforms and productivity services for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Our platforms will harmonize the interests of end users, developers and IT better than any competing ecosystem or platform.”

Today, Microsoft is reporting impressive growth for its SaaS solutions. Revenue from its cloud platform, Azure, grew triple digits, with usage of key computing and database workloads more than doubling year-over-year. And embracing Apple and Android is paying off, making its software easily available on all operating systems. (In fact, that’s often where you’ll find the best Microsoft apps.) Office 365’s enterprise user base is also growing quickly. End of last year, reported it’s already twice as popular as Google’s G Suite in organizations across Europe. It’s a bold move for a company once considered an evil monopolist who perceived open-source as an existential threat to their business. As one court order stated: they put up ‘technical barriers’, making it hard for the competition to work on the Windows operating system. Remember the ‘browser wars’?

I’m happy to see Microsoft’s progress and its approach to open source. At Codit, we welcome the transition from a closed Microsoft-only stack to an open Azure platform. It’s the perfect foundation for co-creation with our customers. For instance on projects related to the Internet of Things.  

We have many customers exploring IoT. Usually they have lots of ideas, devices and sensors. But they have no resources, expertise nor experience to connect these to the cloud and putting their data to work. Cue in the Nebulus™ IoT Gateway. You can use it to link any sensor or device in a couple of minutes to the Microsoft Azure cloud, allowing you to connect, capture and control data in real-time.

I’m a big fan of co-creation. Most customers have a clear view on what they want. But they need help translating it into specific technology features and functions. That’s where we come in, helping you turn big ideas into new tangible services.

What’s your big idea? We’re listening.

- Stijn Degrieck, CEO Codit

Categories: Opinions
Tags: Azure
written by: Stijn Degrieck

Posted on Monday, April 24, 2017 11:02 AM

Stijn Degrieck by Stijn Degrieck

"Europe is far too dependent on Microsoft." I thought I accidentally clicked on an old article, perhaps from the end of the last century. At that time, Microsoft was in trouble for abusing its dominant market position to stave off competition. It was the start of a series of legal battles both in the States and in Europe, culminating in the Windows Media Player saga. You know, that thing you may have used to watch video on a pc, if you didn’t skip it entirely because you belong to the YouTube generation. Microsoft was fined a massive sum by Europe in 2004, but continued to resist strongly until 2012. In the end, they subsided. Or that is what we would like to believe.

Back to today. According to a group of research journalists, the intensive collaboration with Microsoft makes Europe vulnerable, for instance because our data is in the hands of an American company. And we would regret that, now that our American allies seem less steadfast. A German Euro parliament member called for immediate action to force the mighty Microsoft to its knees. By comparing IT with aviation, where Europe broke Boeing’s dominance with the launch of the Airbus, he called for an "ICT Airbus". Nice one liner, and maybe a beautiful dream for European chauvinists, but utter nonsense in the end.

The world in the 1970s cannot be compared to the here and now. Of course, technological innovations were made and we pushed forward, but the rate of change was lower and the impact was much smaller. Moore's Law, anyone?

Changing a sector is not the same as overthrowing a whole economy. It shows little insight into our connected and globalized society to propose such a change of mind. And it's out of touch with reality: in spite of earlier attempts to control Microsoft, it is still one of the world's largest (IT) companies. Like it or not, the whole world has been running on Windows for 30 years.

Another question is whether Microsoft is really such a patriotic American company. Ultra large companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon do not only transcend geographic boundaries, but mental boundaries as well. Wasn’t Facebook called 'the largest country in the world' because it has more 'residents' than China? Globalization on that scale questions all the old paradigms, which our politicians love for obvious reasons.

Large companies tend to be very committed to their 'citizens'. They have an eye for local needs and expectations. For example, Microsoft has worldwide data centers to ensure quality of service and data protection. The company was recently proved right in a lawsuit by a magistrate in New York. He had summoned the company to supply data (e-mails) from an Irish-based server as part of an investigation. Microsoft won the plea, with the full support of the Irish government.

To the current CEO Satya Nadella, a man born in India, Microsoft is not so much a business as an ecosystem. He wants to build the world's best cloud platform, open to anyone, at any time and any location. And he does what he can to fulfill that promise. For example, Microsoft's employees are leading the ranking on Github, an online platform for open source developers who share code with the community. No one has more active developers on that platform than Microsoft. Not even Facebook and Google. And still, we tend to fear Microsoft.

Fear is a bad counselor and protectionism is a weak strategy. The only question that really matters to Europe is: how do we make sure that the next Microsoft, Google or Facebook has its roots in European soil? That is, if you see yourself as a European rather than a world citizen.

Note: This opinion was first published on on 20 April 2017 (in Dutch). 

Categories: Opinions
Tags: Microsoft
written by: Stijn Degrieck