It’s been a crazy couple of years for Microsoft.
Under CEO Satya Nadella, who took the top spot in February 2014, Microsoft has reversed course on a few philosophies, launched some unexpected new products, and generally been a lot friendlier to everybody.
Here are some of the wildest, most unexpected things Microsoft has done in the past two years.
The hits came early in Nadella’s reign: Office for the Apple iPad launched in March of 2014, just over a month after he took the job. It was a previously unthinkable concession to Apple’s mobile supremacy.
(It’s worth noting that for stuff like Office on iPad, that ball started rolling under Steve Ballmer, Nadella’s predecessor. But it actually launched under Nadella, so he gets the credit.)
Speaking of Ballmer, Microsoft spent much of the nineties and early 2000s aggressively competing with Linux — a free, open source operating system that anybody could download and tweak to their own needs. It was a big threat to the dominance of Windows, and Ballmer once called it “cancer.”
And so it turned a lot of heads in late 2014 when Microsoft released the .NET Core programming language as open source, embracing a philosophy that it had long avoided. But that was just a prelude to the real action…
In early 2015, Nadella announced that “Microsoft Loves Linux,” and that its Microsoft Azure cloud would support the Linux operating system. Microsoft has even been signing deals with former rivals like Red Hat and Canonical to make this all happen.
In early 2016, Microsoft took that love even further with the announcement that SQL Server, its incredibly lucrative database software, will be coming to Linux next year.
In fact, along the way, Microsoft even wrote its own mini version of Linux to help power some of its networking software. It blew a lot of minds in Silicon Valley and beyond.
You can read more about Microsoft’s brief jaunt into Linux here.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Ballmer eventually got over the Linux thing.
Not that Microsoft has ignored Windows. In January 2015, Microsoft announced Windows 10, a new version of the operating system that would go on to fix most of the problems with the largely-reviled Windows 8.
Better yet, Microsoft made Windows 10 a free upgrade for Windows 7 or 8/8.1 users for the first year of its existence, through July 2016. That’s a bold move for a company with a reputation for nickel-and-diming customers.
Even the Xbox One video game console got an update to Windows 10 recently. That means Microsoft finally has a computer in the living room.
Right alongside Windows 10, Microsoft surprised everyone when it announced the HoloLens, a pair of “holographic” goggles that bring virtual objects, apps, and games into the real-world environment around you.
The existence of HoloLens totally explained why Microsoft bought Mojang, developer of the smash-hit game “Minecraft,” for $2.5 billion in late 2014. HoloLens is the perfect venue for “Minecraft’s” style of building and modeling objects in three dimensions.
Under Ballmer, Microsoft had started making the Surface and Surface Pro line of tablets. But in late 2015, Nadella and Microsoft presented the Surface Book, Microsoft’s first-ever laptop…
…which also sports a detachable screen that doubles as a tablet. It’s great.
And while Nadella hasn’t been able to turn around Microsoft’s struggling phone business, in the wake of the disastrous Nokia acquisition. But Windows 10 Mobile for smartphones also adds a sweet new capability called “Continuum,” where you can hook a Windows phone up to a monitor and use it as a (limited) PC.
But probably the biggest sign of the times for Microsoft came in late 2015, when Apple had Office executive Kirk Koenigsbauer on stage during the iPad Pro launch event. It was the first time Microsoft ever appeared at an Apple event. And it’s a great sign of Microsoft’s willingness to work with the outside world, instead of trying to compete with them.
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