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Microsoft's Nadella preaches productivity to partners

Mark Hachman | July 17, 2014
Microsoft's new chief executive Satya Nadella elucidates his vision of platforms and productivity at Microsoft's partner conference, with hints of changes to Windows and Office to come.

Microsoft's products are being rearchitected for this new reality. Earlier, Nick Hedderman, a group marketing manager at Microsoft, showed how quickly corporate apps and policies could be pushed to a user's personal Windows Phone--and how quickly they could be removed if the user left the company. Prophet, meanwhile, talked up Microsoft's new universal apps, where developers can "code once" using common APIs for Windows devices, from smartphones to PCs to Microsoft's gigantic Perceptive Pixel displays.

Microsoft WPC Windows 8 productivity apps
Some of the productivity apps for the Windows platform.

By pushing those apps onto platforms like Android or iOS, Microsoft can help win the larger market for connected devices, a point that Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner made Monday. "On every home screen out there our aspiration is to have one or many Microsoft icons representing Microsoft digital experiences," Nadella said. "They're all entry points for us as an ecosystem."

Where is Windows?
Where is Windows in all this? The goal for Windows is to take those "digital work-life experiences and make them shine," Nadella said. Windows will have "consumptive experiences" like Pandora, he said, but the real goal of Microsoft and its hardware and software partners is to emphasize productivity. Office 365, the company's flagship productivity suite, will be the focal platform for developers to build upon, he said.

"Any organization that wants to thrive in a world of data needs to provide a culture of data," Nadella said.

Microsoft Project Siena
Project Siena: a beta app where non-developers can quickly create apps on the fly.

To pull it all together, Nadella showed off a few applications that he said represented the direction in which Microsoft is heading: a real-time worldwide monitoring dashboard of elevators manufactured by ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas, the Siena app, and another demonstration of the Skype real-time translator that Microsoft had shown off previously. The Skype translator may be in preview by the end of 2014, Nadella said.

The ThyssenKrupp app used Microsoft's machine learning to sift through maintenance records and performance logs inside the connected elevators to predict when an elevator could fail.  Microsoft chief storyteller Steve Clayton whipped through the Siena demonstration to show how apps could be created on the fly.  

The idea, as Nadella implied, was that many users are already coding and don't even know it. "If you can build an Excel spreadsheet you can can build this app," he said of Siena.

In February, Nadella was named chief executive of Microsoft. He's now had one full quarter to settle in. Next week, on July 22, Microsoft reports its quarterly results, where we'll see the first hint of how Nadella's new strategy is playing out.


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