A big part of Microsoft’s return to relevance is open source. The next phase involves supremely geeky tooling, at which Microsoft is supremely gifted. If only Microsoft would start telling that story in earnest.

The best kept secret

That’s the message Redmonk analyst James Governor is shouting from the rooftops, and he’s right. Fresh from Microsoft’s Build conference, Governor came back a little disappointed with the lack of tight messaging for Build. Instead, he said, “If I had written the keynote though, I would have made it 20 minutes long with one theme: We’re Your Favourite Tool.”

SEE: Cheat sheet: The most important cloud advances of the decade (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Remember when Microsoft used to give developers incredible tools like Visual Studio? Well, that same Microsoft exists today but, as Governor has highlighted, it now offers the industry’s top developer tooling in three key areas:

  1. GitHub
  2. Visual Studio Code
  3. TypeScript

Governor also points to Microsoft’s Surface Book as a contender for developer’s hardware of choice, but this feels like an unnecessary stretch. Microsoft has all the software, and software services, for developers who want to build. It’s a great complement to the company’s increased dependence on open source. Basically, Microsoft is trying to give developers the best tools to store, edit, and write that code.

In this way, Microsoft is cool again. Or, nerdy, which is even better, as pointed out by Dina Bass and Austin Carr:

Microsoft was never cool. If there’s anything Nadella, the CEO who recently gushed to colleagues about a fun medieval history book he’d read, has recaptured at Microsoft, it’s Gates’s unreconstructed nerdulence. This is an important shift. For much of the Ballmer era, Microsoft was chasing a sexy, Apple-like version of itself, and mostly failing…. At heart, Nadella has Microsoft remembering who it is again in all its Gatesian glory.

The “glory” is dull in terms of flashy sex appeal, but laser-focused on making developers productive, particularly as developers hope to build in the cloud.

About that cloud…

This is not yet the strongest extension of the Microsoft tools story as it could be. Microsoft Azure is a strong #2 to AWS, but it’s still very much a distant #2, with cloud services that are still not as tightly knit together as those from AWS. Some of this stems from Microsoft getting into the cloud game late and having to play a fierce game of catch-up (even as AWS keeps building out new services at a frenetic pace). And some of it likely stems from Microsoft 1.0 (product teams not working in concert).

SEE: Cheat sheet: Microsoft OneDrive (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

As Gartner has noted, “While Microsoft Azure is an enterprise-ready platform, Gartner clients report that the service experience feels less enterprise-ready than they expected, given Microsoft’s long history as an enterprise vendor. Customers cite issues with technical support, documentation, training, and breadth of the ISV partner ecosystem.”

Regardless, Microsoft is clearly in this for the long haul, and not to claim a participation trophy. Azure is a fabulous cloud with a bevy of services for developers. Meanwhile… GitHub, Visual Studio Code, and TypeScript. Plenty of developers opt to use these Microsoft tools and push their applications to AWS, but over time it’s likely that it will become easier and easier to keep those applications within the Microsoft fold. Indeed, Microsoft recently announced tighter integration between Active Directory and Visual Studio and GitHub.

The cloud belongs to AWS today, but the tools increasingly belong to Microsoft. That tooling advantage should begin to pay bigger dividends in cloud adoption.

Image: Hans Engbers