Boris Mann’s Personal Blog

May 2017

Microsoft and the Open Source community

My own usage of Microsoft

I have a family license for Office which includes OneDrive storage space. The Outlook app on iOS is a great email client, although I really want them to bring back the full functionality of Sunrise Calendar, which was acquired and then killed.

I don’t use Windows on a regular basis. I have been experimenting with LiquidSky, a streaming gaming service which gives me a Windows desktop on a high powered machine in the cloud that I can install my Steam account and other PC gaming services. I like the utility of an on-demand desktop in the cloud — especially when I don’t have to worry about maintaining it.

(I’ve maintained my own Windows desktops before — they’ve always degraded in performance, never mind having to actively be concerned about virus scanners)

I’ve written about considering what my next laptop might be — and it’s by no means certain that it will be a Mac. Microsoft is quite good at hardware — it’s the end-to-end user experience of Windows and apps that causes friction.

As for Azure, I definitely would consider it on a case by case basis for projects. I’m interested in the Azure Bot Service. The Language Understanding Intelligence Service (LUIS) which provides NLP and other context services (like IBM’s Watson) is very interesting.

But I’m not a working programmer, and I’m not familiar with Azure because I’ve used it only rarely. The last project I experimented with was their Ethereum blockchain deployment quickstart template, and they now have Azure Blockchain as a Service.

For my hobbyist needs, I reach for Heroku most often. It’s the easiest and quickest way to get an open source app up and running and on the public internet for me. There are some new services such as Now or Glitch, and all of the cloud providers have some version of “cloud functions” where you can run a single function at a time. For Heroku, I don’t have to worry about maintaining an operating system or dealing with scaling, while easily being able to take a “traditionally” written chunk of application source code and get it going.

I’ll experiment some more with Azure and try creating a “Deploy to Azure” template for one of the open source projects I contribute to, to see how it compares.

But what I really want is a Heroku-like experience for my applications. I don’t want to deal with machines / operating systems, whether or not they are containerized.

What should Microsoft do?

I was impressed that Microsoft had taken the time to gather a group of employees and host us, to listen to feedback from the community. This alone is an activity that I don’t see other big companies doing, or at least I haven’t seen it in Vancouver before.

One of the comments that I made in regards to Visual Studio Code (of which there was a lot of interest in discussing further), was that Microsoft didn’t need to make a special event and buy us dinner just to talk about stuff we found interesting anyway. Have a Visual Studio Code meetup, and we’ll come out and participate.

If Satya Nadella does intend Microsoft to be the “most open” company, Microsoft can continue flying this community flag, actively participating in local events, and lead through their actions.

We are moving into a time where the “open source” license of the code matters less than ever. Data, privacy, and the tuning of algorithms — the open-ness of data and decision making — is what matters most. Microsoft has already turned the corner on a lot of their old ways, but many scars from the last 15 years still remain.

Welcome to the community, Microsoft. Let’s keep talking.