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Ballmer outlines the road ahead for Microsoft Office, Skype, 'Bing Now'

Mark Hachman | July 15, 2013
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer outlines how Microsoft plans to reinvent the future of documents, collaboration, anticipatory data, and gaming.

steve ballmer

According to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, the future of Microsoft involves such things as "living" documents, the Microsoft equivalent of "Google Now," a blurring of email and chat, and the ability to add a gaming layer to everyday activities.

It's an ambitious vision, and Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer laid it all out in a strategy document that accompanied his "One Microsoft" memo outlining an ambitious company reorganization. While most of the early attention paid to Microsoft's strategy correctly focused on what the reorganization means for the short term, it's worth focusing on what the company has in store for the longer-term future of its product groups, too.

Ballmer made much of the fact that Microsoft is reorganizing around devices and services and moving away from being a purely software-driven business. But Microsoft was founded on identifying and meeting key needs that it can address, such as productivity, collaboration, and fun. What Ballmer's document appears to do is essentially remix those concepts, combining them in much the same way painters mix primary colors together, to develop new and profitable combinations of technologies.

Ballmer addresses five key areas: the future of documents, anticipatory data, the future of social, gaming, and the "shell" of the Windows interface.

1.) The future of Office documents
"Documents are going from being printed to being experienced," Ballmer writes. "There are many high-value needs for personal creative expression -- some just for fun, others at work or at school. We will reinvent the tools and form of expressing oneself (and expressing things as a group) from paper and slides to online. We will ensure that the tools handle multimedia (photos, videos, text, charts and slides) in an integrated way and natively online."

That's exactly the conclusion we reached on Wednesday, a day before Ballmer released his reorgnization memo. By injecting data into documents via Bing and the cloud, users are encouraged both to use Microsoft Office and to let documents "live," connected to the cloud. These "living documents" can't be easily reproduced by reader technology from Google and others, making Office that much more valuable.

2.) Look out, here comes "Bing Now"
"Our machine learning infrastructure will understand people's needs and what is available in the world, and will provide information and assistance," Ballmer writes. "We will be great at anticipating needs in people's daily routines and providing insight and assistance when they need it. When it comes to life's most important tasks and events, we will pay extra attention. The research done, the data collected and analyzed, the meetings and discussions had, and the money spent are all amplified for people during life's big moments. We will provide the tools people need to capture their own data and organize and analyze it in conjunction with the massive amount of data available over the Web."


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