Moving to Microsoft

Today was my last day at SAPO, and tomorrow will be my first day at Microsoft.

Five years since my last career move (which was also a kind of running jump), I find myself contemplating mostly the same things – a corporate structure undergoing dramatic change, an ongoing interest in a particular field of work, and an opportunity to learn new things.

So to anyone who knows me at all, it was pretty much a no-brainer. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, given that I’ve been paying them very close attention ever since Satya Nadella stepped up to bat, nearly two years ago.

It did take me a while to get used to the idea, though – SAPO still has one of the best technology teams in Portugal and runs nearly everything atop Debian Linux and Open Source, so even though I felt the need to “go corporate”, it’s very hard to let go of that startup ethos.

The people at SAPO are amazing, the projects were very challenging (as usual, in more ways than I can actually write about) and I had the tremendous good fortune to help organize events that reached thousands of people (Codebits and the Lisbon Maker Faire, which had tens of thousands of visitors).

All things considered, though, it was time to move on. And, like I wrote a decade ago, I’ve always tried to be agnostic as far as computing is concerned:

…discussing relative merits of computer platforms is very much like discussing cars, and therefore largely unimportant if you are getting what you want.

Dances with Windows

Paraphrasing Rutger Hauer’s famous ad libbed monologue, I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

I ran Windows 2.0 on a 286 PC, multiplexing terminal sessions to a VAX. I helped a Russian colleague debug multi-link PPP on Windows NT drivers for a custom-built ISDN card for Windows, back when CAPI was a thing, spent ages fiddling with NDIS on Windows for workgroups and made a feeble stab at integrating MS Mail with X.400/X.500 systems.

I have a printed copy of the original mail message by Dave Cutler announcing Windows NT’s release to manufacturing, paid for my own MSDN subscription during college (still use a lot of those CDs as coasters - they’re colorful and pretty), and spent the initial portion of the dial-up era building self-provisioning CDs with the Internet Explorer Administration Kit and SLIP/PPP stacks for two national ISPs.

So you could say I have more than a passing relationship with Microsoft – and one that happens to be interwoven with my love of Apple and the dawn of the Internet, to boot.

And it is an exciting time to join Microsoft. Although I am doing so to work on cloud services (which have been my main field of work over the past year), last week’s hardware event was heartening in the sense that it shows they’re taking the whole experience seriously – maybe more seriously than Apple in practical, wide-ranging terms.

The mobile side of things clearly needs a lot more work, though. To be completely honest, given that Windows Phone‘s market share is in the single digits in most places, I share most pundits’ opinion that going for aspirational devices won’t suffice without a much larger developer ecosystem.

But I watched (from a painfully close distance, as long-time readers may recall) as both Blackberry and Nokia fell from grace, so will at least give it the benefit of the doubt.

So what about Apple?

Truth be told, I spent more time than I really care to consider perusing Matt Gemmel’s guide to Windows Phone and fondling my iPhone thoughtfully.

Of course, I have a very large commitment towards Apple, their developer ecosystem and their music services (within reason, but still significant), and that isn’t going to evaporate overnight – I am most emphatically not going to throw away all my iTunes music or my perfectly good (if occasionally obsolescent) gear and gleefully replace them with their equivalents – it would be a criminal waste of perfectly good money, which these days weighs heavily in my mind.

And this site?

That’s simple enough: this site won’t be going anywhere soon. I intend to keep writing about technology at large as far as my disclaimer will allow, even though it bears noting that I have been considering changing the domain name for a couple of years now (ever since it’s stopped being solely about the Mac). I haven’t settled on a new one yet, but grouping things under my personal domain seems like the logical way to go.

If anything, going back to switching to and fro between both ecosystems will help maintain a clear separation between home and work (which was kind of the point of why this site got started in the first place).

Agnosticism, in fact, was the main thing I was sold on when I started discussing things with Microsoft, and I’m very curious to see how the company is changing from the inside out – with luck, the timing is about right to witness that change from the point of view of the Portuguese subsidiary.

Worst case scenario, I’ll learn a lot of new stuff about things I never really had the time to dive into before, and catch up on the largest single-vendor technology stack on the planet – so it’s a win-win situation either way.

Onwards, then, to Azure.