Mr. Softy Finally Gets It Right

There are all sorts of funny videos featuring Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) CEO Steve Ballmer making the rounds on the Web. The monkey-boy dance tops the list, obviously. But this exhortation, a sweaty homage to software developers, is nearly as classic. It also underscores an important point: No company has ever been better at helping coders earn a living than Microsoft. And now it seems to be leaning on that legacy to help take the fight to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) .

Allow me to explain. Last Wednesday, Microsoft Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie told Fortune that Mr. Softy has plans for an online storage service called Live Drive. Apparently conceived in similar fashion to Google's rumored GDrive, Live Drive will take advantage of Microsoft's legions of globally deployed servers to offer users nearly unlimited storage.

What does that have to do with developers, you ask? Stay with me. According to the Microsoft Watch blog penned by longtime tech reporter Mary Jo Foley, Windows Live has become an online services platform that is being opened to coders. The goal, it seems, is to encourage an ecosystem of software and services that enhances the portal. But a richer platform always results in more data to be stored. That's where Live Drive enters the picture. (And, not for nothing, it's likely the same direction in which Google is heading.)

Here's why this matters to you, Fool: Microsoft has recently toyed with becoming a more consumer-oriented company. It certainly has had to do so with the Xbox, MSN, and other highly visible services. But Mr. Softy's legacy is infrastructure, and its most loyal customers have been developers. Put differently: Windows is an excuse for Microsoft to sell tools that help developers make profitable software applications.

It's that mindset -- developers first -- that has made Microsoft one of the world's most dominant franchises. And, thanks to Ozzie, Mr. Softy is finally beginning to remember where his bread gets buttered. Let's hope -- for investors' sake, at least -- that he never again forgets.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers wonders when Apple is going to come up with a .Mac-branded unlimited storage service. Tim didn't own stock in any of the companies listed in this story at the time of publication. You can find out which stocks he owns by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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