Is Minecraft Microsoft's Most Important Acquisition Since DOS?

Originally published on March 2nd, 2015 in Wired

Minecraft for Mindshare: Is Minecraft the Most Important Acquisition by Microsoft Since DOS?

A cornerstone of Microsoft’s success in the 80s and 90s was its developer mindshare; if you dominate the developer community then you dominate platform computing, which at that time was based almost entirely on Windows. How can Microsoft dominate developer mindshare over the next few generations of software engineers? The answer might be Minecraft for Mindshare.

Microsoft has almost lost a generation of developers with the emergence of cloud computing 2.0. The way my children communicate in five years hasn’t been invented. My children’s tech jobs in 10 years haven’t been invented yet either, as we don’t know what the next programming platform will be. Microsoft Minecraft could be the basis for the next generation of software developers. In short, hooking them early into the vast world of Microsoft programming products.

Dev Ops Meets Legos

When I look at how my children use technology they are absolutely passionate about building and creating architectural masterpieces in Minecraft. They partner with their buddies to create these magnificent Minecraft palaces, which is their version of dev ops meets Legos. Many people are speculating why Microsoft bought Mojang for $2.5bn. I think a core long-term strategy for Redmond is to ensure that the next few generations of emerging software architects are steeped early in Microsoft programming products.

When I see my kids passionate about building in Minecraft it reminds me of me being incredibly passionate about programming using Apple’s HyperCard or early versions of Microsoft’s Visual Basic, which of course influenced me to program on Microsoft’s flagship ubiquitous Windows platform.

What does this mean? Since the Mojang acquisition, my kids now know what Microsoft is as a brand. With Minecraft, I feel like my children are using a rudimentary and fun version of Autodesk or a next gen software development platform. What my kids are essentially creating are programming logic statements in Minecraft by creating Minecraft programming switches. The logic switches they create actually look like light switches, which open Minecraft doors or fire missiles; how fun!

Whoever creates the coolest and best development tools will own a large slice of technology platforms. I believe that Minecraft will morph through Microsoft into a more sophisticated development platform over time, in turn leading to more developer loyalty with other Microsoft developer products.

Perhaps an operating system or development platform of the future will be virtual reality based, which Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others are currently exploring; perhaps Microsoft Minecraft/HoloLens as a platform will one day compete with Facebook/Oculus Rift or Google/Magic Leap as a platform.

The Microsoft/Minecraft strategy reminds me of when I was in college when it was easy to get a credit card from Visa or MasterCard despite having no credit rating because the credit card companies were correctly long-term greedy. It's the right long-term strategy by Microsoft to ensure that they stay relevant for future developers. Well done, Redmond.