Redmond View

Advancing Windows in a Multiplatform World

Microsoft's newest CEO isn't afraid to shed the confines of the past to shape a new future for the company.

When Microsoft recently said it will no longer call its public cloud service Windows Azure, new CEO Satya Nadella showed he's willing to cast aside even the company's once indispensable brands.

At first the move sounded incongruous. After all, the Microsoft Cloud OS strategy, announced in 2012, was predicated on extending the Windows Server environment to the cloud. The renaming made even less sense when Nadella spoke of "universal Windows" at last month's Build conference. But after Build concluded, and Executive Vice President for Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie discussed the newly renamed Microsoft Azure, a clearer picture emerged.

Universal Windows doesn't mean Windows everywhere, the longtime mantra in Redmond. It was once a reasonable goal but new platforms have outpaced Windows and PC growth has plateaued. A Windows everywhere mindset today would be myopic. As Microsoft unifies the Windows codebase, it's focusing on universal Windows apps across PCs, tablets, phones and Xbox.

During the search for a new CEO, many thought only an outsider would be willing to shake up the status quo. Nadella has come out of the gate trying to achieve a reasonable balance, finding a way to take Windows to the next level without betting the ranch on it.

In order for Azure to compete head-to-head with Amazon Web Services, Google, VMware and the OpenStack-based clouds, Microsoft needs to show skeptics its cloud service is more than just Windows and .NET. In addition to now supporting Linux servers, Oracle databases, and middleware, Azure supports popular application frameworks such as Node.JS, PHP, Python, and as of last month now includes native Java language.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to embrace the open source world incrementally. Last month's formation of the .NET Foundation was the latest important step where it made some key components of the Microsoft .NET Framework available to the open source community.

Perhaps someday Windows Server will be renamed Azure Server?

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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