Microsoft's New CEO Would Be Wise to Embrace Open Source

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 05, 2014

Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, is going to enter his new job with a great deal of pressure on him to make the company an innovator again, according to many corporate strategy pundits. "Nadella would be very smart to organize a 100-day plan," Randy Ottinger, an executive vice president with Kotter International, told Computerworld.

One of Nadella's shrewdest moves would be to steer Microsoft toward embracing and leveraging open source platforms and tools, ranging from its mobile device strategy to its cloud computing efforts. The company has become more friendly to open source in recent years, and with his vast background as a scientist and researcher, Nadella has the right kind of mindset to make this move.

In January, I noted in a post that with Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia expected to close soon, there is growing speculation that Nokia, which stumbled with some of its efforts to quickly create a viable, mobile, open source operating system, may have an Android phone in the works. Could that soon put Microsoft in the Android business? Some say yes.

Could Android--a mobile operating system from Microsoft's arch rival Google that has found unprecedented success--actually be the key to solving Microsoft's mobile problems? I've asked that question before, as seen in this post, which noted that Microsoft could quickly solve some of its tablet woes by embracing Android.

An Android phone, especially a good one, could help shore up Nokia's smartphone efforts, and if Microsoft's acquisition goes through smoothly, could put Microsoft on new Android-focused paths as well. Android's barnstorming success on smartphones has been driven by a healthy ecosystem for apps, and Microsoft's ecosystem is less robust. 

While it t has historically not been very much part of the Microsoft culture to consider the benefits of allowing users to run multiple operating systems on individual PCs, we also are seeing the arrival of new hybrid PCs that run Windows and Android right out of the box. These automatically marry Microsoft's platform to open source, and Nadella would be wise to leverage these trends.

Likewise, Microsoft has gained only lukewarm traction with its Azure-focused cloud computing strategy, but the company could benefit enormously from working with enterprises interested in platforms like OpenStack. Nadella previously headed Microsoft's cloud computing division, and he is no doubt aware of the traction that open cloud platforms are gaining.

Nadella is also, surely, intimately familiar with Microsoft's increasing interest in open source. Could he put the company on a permanent path toward cozying up to open source, instead of being wary of it? Steve Ballmer, his predecessor, famously called open source "a cancer," but the Ballmer era is over, and Nadella has open source opportunities ahead of him.

 Image Credit: Microsoft