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Why Satya Nadella May Be Tech's Best CEO

By Tim Beyers – Updated Apr 15, 2019 at 3:37PM

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There’s power in embracing technology that’s not your own.

Modern developers are so competitive they share their work. And why not? There's power in being recognized for great work and then seeing that work make its way into enterprises around the globe. There may be no executive more tuned into this truism than Microsoft's (MSFT -2.12%) Satya Nadella.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has reasons to smile. Image source: Microsoft.

Embracing...and nothing more

Once a combative bully that made industry enemies gladly, Microsoft under Nadella has become a sort of benevolent giant funding development projects large and small. The company's reputation for contributing to open-source projects has become so prolific since Nadella took the reins that his leadership -- and background as a developer himself -- made it easier to convince the founders of GitHub to sell their company to Microsoft instead of its rivals.

His latest move? Adopt the Kubernetes container orchestration technology as the primary choice for the Azure cloud platform. Made by Alphabet's (GOOGL -2.72%) (GOOG -2.77%) Google but offered as open source-technology, Kubernetes is a mechanism for bringing together "containers" of code that can represent entire apps working in concert.

No one should be surprised to learn that Microsoft had its own container orchestration technology, just as Windows Phone was once a thing. In putting Kubernetes at the top of the pyramid, Nadella is doing what he sees as best for developers who prefer to work with open-source technology and then deploy code to the most convenient platform.

Windows was once the most convenient platform for PCs, especially 20 years ago when PCs were the platform for software. Now, in the cloud era, Nadella wants Azure to be the most convenient platform for software.

Or, as he's said before, to make Azure into "the world's computer."

Check out the latest earnings call transcripts for Microsoft and other companies we cover.

Why this matters

Whether more companies gravitate to Azure immediately isn't really the point of adopting Kubernetes. Nadella is playing a long game, using interoperability to create technology touchpoints so that users see Microsoft more often. Whether it's through Word or Cortana voice commands on Alexa or Docker containers orchestrated in an Azure cloud is immaterial. The goal is more interaction with Microsoft products on the user's terms.

It's those instances where users choose Microsoft and get a pleasing result that brings in customers and recommendations and then more customers. It's a war won an inch at a time. Nadella, by staying open and focusing on interoperability, is helping his company to gain ground.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Tim Beyers owns shares of Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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