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Microsoft adopts 'challenger' mentality to win larger world of connected devices

Mark Hachman | July 15, 2014
Microsoft controls more than 90 percent of the personal-computer market. Which means that, in its view, it's an underdog.

On Monday, however, Microsoft made machine learning its focus. Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group at Microsoft, called the new Azure Machine Learning technology, announced in June, sort of the opposite of Power BI — Azure ML looks forward with its predictions, not back. Azure ML was released in preview form.

Likewise, Julia White, the general manager of Office, showed off how the new Delve tool — formerly code-named "Oslo" — could tap into the power of Azure to learn what documents are relevant to you.

Microsoft continued to tout Office 365's success. A year ago, Microsoft executives boasted of Office 365's $1 billion run rate. This year, it's up to $2.5 billion, John Case, corporate vice president of the Office Division, said. And the Office for iPad apps have been downloaded more than 27 million times, he added. Over 5 million apps running on top of Office 365 and Azure have been downloaded through Microsoft's online stores.

Platforms and productivity

But it was Turner who shouldered the bulk of the load, admitting mistakes and painting the lines on Microsoft's road ahead. (Nadella is scheduled to speak Wednesday.)

"As a company we've been embracing several hard decisions," Turner said. "One of the one we've talked about... was zero-royalty 9-inch devices. That was not an easy choice, but it was a necessary choice. Making Office cross platform, the best of productivity. Deciding as a company that we were going to win at productivity became important for us. Getting into first-party hardware was not an easy decision, but we wanted to lead the hardware innovation cycle. Not to be an exclusive, closed proprietary first party supplier, but one that leads the innovation curve and stays...out in front in where innovation will go."

Turner touted the positive reviews that accompanied the release of the Surface Pro 3 tablet, and the resurgence of Windows Phone as part of Windows Phone 8.1.

Turner also mentioned "the next release of Windows," but provided few details. The key elements, to Turner, was that it would be "a great, world-class enterprise OS when it comes out," and that it would continue Microsoft's vision of universal apps. Apps written for this next generation of Windows devices will run on smartphones, tablets, PCs, its gigantic Perceptive Pixel displays, even the Xbox, he said, using a single API.

Finally, Turner said, Microsoft plans a substantial, apparently disproprtionately large push into security, continuing to enhance basic apps like Windows Defender on up to more sophisticated services for enterprises. Turner also pledged to notify customers when their data had been subpoenaed by the government, to never build back doors into its products, and other privacy pledges.

"We're going to be a leader in data protection, privacy, and security," Turner said. 

 

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