The deal solidifies Microsoft’s recent commitment to open-source software development.
Microsoft has agreed to buy coder-community company GitHub for $7.5 billion in stock, solidifying its recent commitment to open-source software development.
GitHub’s website offers a way for software developers to store and share code with each other, making it easy to collaborate on projects and build on each other’s work.
Microsoft executives pledged Monday that GitHub would remain open to all developers, attempting to assuage concerns that have already popped up about a big company taking over the open-source community.
Recent and notable Microsoft acquisitions
LinkedIn, 2016: $26 billion
Skype, 2011: $8.5 billion
Nokia handset division, 2014: $7.9 billion
GitHub, 2018: $7.5 billion
aQuantive, 2007: $6 billion
Mojang (Minecraft), 2014: $2.6 billion
Yammer, 2012 :$1.2 billion
Engineers who use GitHub will be able to upload any code for any system, not just Microsoft’s.
“We both agree GitHub needs to remain an open platform for all developers,” Chris Wanstrath, co-founder of GitHub, said on a conference call Monday with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Wanstrath will join Microsoft as a technical fellow.
The Redmond company is one of the largest users of GitHub and has come to rely on its tools in recent years, including on its cloud computing platform, Azure, an increasingly important part of its business.
Under Nadella, Microsoft has supported Linux and used open-source development in its technology, a turnaround from the days when it was committed to only Microsoft-built technologies.
Open-source software allows developers to see and study the underlying code of a system, thereby accelerating the overall development process.
Nadella called attention to the company’s flipped perspective on open-source software on the Monday conference call.
“Today, we are all in with open source,” he said. He urged people to judge Microsoft’s open-source commitment by its actions in the “recent past, our actions today and in the future,” subtly acknowledging that there were decades when Microsoft did not support open-source software, to the consternation of many developers.
San Francisco-based GitHub will operate independently, Nadella said, with Microsoft corporate Vice President Nat Friedman, who oversees developer services, taking over as CEO. Friedman previously led Xamarin, a mobile app development company that Microsoft purchased in 2016.
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Microsoft is no doubt aware of its need to tread carefully with GitHub, which has been beloved by developers for nearly 10 years.
“Microsoft needs to make it clear it is not trying to turn open things proprietary,” said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst for independent firm Directions on Microsoft. He compared the acquisition to a major book publisher acquiring the public library system.
Microsoft will bring massive research-and-development resources to GitHub, giving it a major runway to improve and rollout tools for developers.
But some developers — especially those familiar with Microsoft during the years it spurned open-source software — will also be wary of the company’s control. A few developers already announced Monday they planned to leave the site and go to GitLab or another competitor.
Others praised the move, noting that it shows how seriously Microsoft is taking open-source.
More and more, developers are focused less on who created the original code for a technology and more on what gets the job done, Sanfilippo said.
“Embracing open source will give Microsoft a better opportunity to have its platforms drive more systems and computer-based solutions around the world,” he said.
Supporting that has been part of Nadella’s larger drive to have Microsoft products work across devices — not just those created by Microsoft — a move that has been largely celebrated.
The company has a checkered history of results with major acquisitions. Its purchase of the Nokia phone unit was largely written off by Microsoft and has been nearly eradicated from the company. Video calling service Skype lives on within Microsoft, but it faces fierce competition from FaceTime, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts.
Popular world-building game Minecraft, on the other hand, has continued to flourish since Microsoft bought its parent, Mojang, in 2014.
And LinkedIn, the company’s whopping $26 billion deal of 2016, has been integrated with some Microsoft products, but has retained its character.
Friedman stressed the independence of GitHub on Monday. He will work in San Francisco and be in the GitHub office every day, he said. GitHub will have its own sales and marketing teams, and will operate largely as a stand-alone company.
He appealed to developers’ sense of trust in GitHub, saying Microsoft wants to make the company even better by using the resources at its disposal.
“We, Microsoft, hope to earn that trust as well,” he said.
Microsoft will assist GitHub in expanding to more developers in large organizations, a market the tech giant knows well.
The more developers on GitHub, Friedman said, the more collaboration around new technologies can take place. Productive developers mean faster innovation.
More than 28 million software developers use GitHub, which said its website holds 85 million code repositories.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
The news gave Microsoft stock a boost Monday. It closed up 88 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $101.67.