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5 reasons the Microsoft, GitHub acquisition makes sense

After weeks of speculation and rumor, Microsoft has agreed to acquire GitHub, the hosting service for version control using the Git version control system developed by Linux creator Linus Torvalds, for $7.5 billion. There are various views on why this move may not work, but here are several reasons why a Microsoft GitHub combination makes sense.

Microsoft is big on open source

One reason why this deal makes sense is that Microsoft is the biggest single contributor to GitHub. Last year, about 1,300 Microsoft employees actively pushed code to 825 top repositories on GitHub, compared to Google with 900 Google employees that contributed to about 1,100 repositories, and 134 Amazon employees that pushed code to 158 top projects.

In addition, Microsoft now depends on GitHub for all its open source activity, since it shut down its CodePlex open source code sharing site last year and selected Git as the version control system for Windows development. Under a “One Engineering System” companywide policy, the Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) team chose Git over other version control systems––including its own internal Source Depot. They also developed the open source Git Virtual File System (GVFS), which enables users to manage massive Git repositories. Microsoft and GitHub later ported GVFS to both macOS and Linux.

GitHub complements Microsoft’s DevOps story

Microsoft recently integrated Visual Studio App Center and GitHub, to help GitHub developers automate DevOps processes as they build mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS devices. Visual Studio App Center enables mobile developers to build, test and distribute mobile apps to a variety of different devices, including iOS and Android, monitor the performance of those apps,  and collect analytics and crash dumps to iteratively improve their apps. Additionally, integration with Microsoft’s Azure DevOps Project lets GitHub developers configure a DevOps pipeline and connect it to the cloud with no prior knowledge. And GitHub Checks API, now in public beta, enables users to perform continuous integration, linting and code analysis.

Nevertheless, questions remain about a Microsoft GitHub marriage, such as what Microsoft will do with VSTS and GitHub Enterprise.

At $7.5 billion, it’s a good deal

Although the $7.5 billion price tag seems huge, Microsoft stands to gain significant value from GitHub, the largest code host in the world.

GitHub’s customer base of around 27 million developers is a ready-made ecosystem for Microsoft to tap for support, and also a big revenue opportunity to host all those open source apps on Azure.

Chris Wanstrath, co-founder and former CEO of GitHub, joins Microsoft as a technical fellow, while Nat Friedman, former CEO of Xamarin which Microsoft acquired in 2016, takes over as CEO of GitHub.

It further establishes Microsoft as a steward for developers

Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen built the company with developers in mind, and the company has worked closely with its developer community to establish a platform and strengthen the platform’s ecosystem. Now, as the company opens up to open source, it must expand its horizons.

Staunch open sourcers and some Microsoft haters have fled GitHub or are contemplating it. I get it. Nobody wants a big, scary vendor to manage their code and tools. But I believe Microsoft will leave GitHub alone and keep it open. Putting Nat Friedman, an open source veteran, in charge is a positive move. I compare this to my beer geek friends who refuse to drink the beer of any craft brewer that sold out to AB InBev, Budweiser’s parent and largest brewer in the world. I know there are underlying issues to their refusal. But all I can say is, Goose Island sold out to AB InBev and I still love me some Bourbon County Brand Stout.

VS Code and TypeScript are wildly popular

The success of Visual Studio Code and TypeScript, open source projects that originated at Microsoft and hosted on GitHub, bodes well for Microsoft’s future interactions with the open source community. Visual Studio Code, a source code editor for Windows, Linux and macOS, supports debugging, embedded Git control, syntax highlighting, intelligent code completion, snippets, and code refactoring. TypeScript is a superset of JavaScript.

VS Code is developed in the public on GitHub and has had over 17,000 developer contributions, and companies such as Google use both VS Code and TypeScript to build software for their platforms. Technologies such as .NET Core, NuGet, Power Shell and Azure SDKs are other projects that Microsoft has developed in the open and hosted on GitHub.

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