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Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photos: Microsoft, Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

If software developers don't see Microsoft as the coolest trillion-dollar tech company out there, CEO Satya Nadella is OK with that, he told Axios in an exclusive interview as Microsoft's annual developer conference kicked off Tuesday.

Driving the news: "My sales pitch to anybody, whether it’s an intern or a college grad joining Microsoft is, hey, if you want to be cool, go join someone else," Nadella said. "If you want to make others cool, join Microsoft."

Why it matters: With Windows less dominant, and Microsoft having given up on its own smartphone platform, the company is trying to woo developers by embracing rivals' platforms, offering tools that can write programs that run just about anywhere.

While Apple, Google and Facebook typically spend a lot of their developer conferences focused on their own products, Microsoft used this week's Build event to focus almost entirely on a bunch of under-the-hood changes that Nadella says will help other companies succeed.

  • "In fact, you could be building an iOS app or an Android app, or an app for (Google's Cloud) or AWS, and still, you’ll want to come to a Microsoft developer conference," Nadella told Axios.

Between the lines: Tech giants have always competed for the attention, enthusiasm and labor of independent software makers.

  • Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used to run around on stage yelling "Developers, developers, developers!"
  • Nadella says coders remain just as important to today's Microsoft, but he prefers to show his appreciation in other ways.

Rather than promoting Microsoft's own image, Nadella aims to paint coders themselves as cool. He has characteried them as "the original creators" and points to Microsoft's transformation of GitHub into a service where programmers can not only share their code, but also get paid.

  • "The sponsorship program on GitHub is the biggest program for essentially tipping software developers in the open source community," Nadella said. "We have lots of plans to expand that. You can even have organizations supporting our open source projects."

Yes, but: One area where Microsoft badly could use some cool points is with Windows, its 35-year-old operating system.

  • Nadella teased a significant update to Windows, noting during his keynote that he has been testing it in recent months.
  • He declined to share any further details, but did say he thinks Windows is exiting the pandemic stronger than it was coming in, as many people rediscovered the power of a PC.

Context: A number of Microsoft's efforts to modernize Windows have stumbled, including the recently shelved Windows 10X — the company's latest attempt to create a slimmed-down OS to better compete against Chrome OS and other mobile devices.

The big picture: Nadella notes that more software programmers are being hired today in traditional companies than in technology businesses.

  • "It’s not about the West Coast of the U.S. or the East Coast of China, but pretty much every company in the world, in every sector," Nadella said

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 1, 2021 - Technology

South Korea's new App Store law makes global waves

Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Lawmakers in South Korea have passed legislation to force Apple and Google to allow rival in-app payment mechanisms within their mobile operating systems.

Why it matters: While the legislation is limited to South Korea, lawmakers and regulators around the globe have also been weighing action on mobile app stores and could seek to force a similar move in other regions.

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.