There may be no more surprising development in technology over the past year than Microsoft's radical transformation into an industry collaborator.
Long surviving on huge license and maintenance fees for its proprietary Windows and Office software, Microsoft historically wanted to sell you the full stack, from the operating system on your desktop to the security, networking and storage in data center servers. It didn't matter if someone else could do it better.
The latest indication of the evolution in Redmond, Wash., came Tuesday, when Microsoft announced mobile integrations with Salesforce.com, Citrix and Box. As part of Microsoft's new Cloud Storage Partner Program, users of Apple iOS devices can fire up Word, Excel or PowerPoint and pull in documents and data from other cloud providers.
To be clear: This means users of non-Microsoft devices can access data stored by Microsoft competitors and edit and save within Microsoft apps. Box Chief Executive Officer Aaron Levie, who spent years criticizing Microsoft's closed approach and lack of innovation, is now openly championing the software giant.
"What Microsoft has been doing under Satya's leadership is recognizing that to be incredibly relevant in the next generation of enterprise and consumer, they need to make sure their individual products are able to stand on their own and compete on their own without being propped up by the complete integration of them all," Levie said in an interview on Tuesday. "There's a lot of momentum around them doing these kinds of partnerships and integrations over the past year."