Somewhere in the late '90s, Microsoft decided that it could make a lot more money selling enterprise software. At the time, no one thought you needed to make enterprise software intuitive and fun to use. That's when Microsoft gradually began to lose touch with the preferences of its actual users. Under Ballmer, Microsoft actively tuned out people's responses to its software, focusing instead on delivering products that served the company's strategic needs. The result was Windows Me, per-device licensing, draconian Windows anti-piracy measures, Windows Vista, the Office Ribbon and Windows 8. In fact, Microsoft missed its chance to take part in any meaningful way in the largest end-user technology trend of the last decade: mobile. Right now, Microsoft is about as far away from being focused on individuals as a company can get.
Nadella appears to recognize that sometimes it's the individual users of enterprise technology that drive the bus. That was the case with BYOD. It's also the case with mobile apps, which are simple and have a limited set of features. There is a fierce demand for enterprise applications to be mobile and fun to use, with streamlined functionality and smart analytics.
Never count out the will of millions of computer, smartphone and tablet users worldwide. Microsoft has taught that lesson to other companies; now it needs to relearn it. Nadella has an uphill battle ahead of him, but he's moving in the right direction.
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