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Microsoft's productivity drive could kill software as we know it

Mark Hachman | July 14, 2014
On Thursday, Satya Nadella charted a new course for Microsoft, focused on interconnectivity and productivity--one where, conceivably, the company's standard-setting Office applications and other products and services could slowly blur into different modes of working with the same data.

On Thursday, Satya Nadella charted a new course for Microsoft, focused on interconnectivity and productivity — one where, conceivably, the company's standard-setting Office applications and other products and services could slowly blur into different modes of working with the same data.

Today you'll still buy Office, Windows, Windows Phone, and other Microsoft products and services. But within the next decade, your Microsoft experience could be radically different. 

Nadella's strategy memo marks an evolution: from Steve Ballmer's "devices and services" strategy, to Nadella's own "cloud first, mobile first" mantra, and now to "the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world."

"Microsoft has a unique ability to harmonize the world's devices, apps, docs, data and social networks in digital work and life experiences so that people are at the center and are empowered to do more and achieve more with what is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity — time!" Nadella wrote.

This is what does productivity means to Nadella: Connections, intelligence, and most of all, ubiquity. To reach that goal, Nadella talks at length of the need to "reinvent" the company's culture and products to meet this new reality.

Connections forged

Microsoft has already spent considerable effort connecting its software apps to one another. Microsoft's business intelligence platform can tap into Bing Maps, and Excel can connect to live data sources stored within the Azure cloud. Microsoft's Bing search engine has morphed into a knowledge repository powering Cortana and other services. And on a more personal level, Microsoft has responded to the collaborative advantages in Google Apps and other services with enhancements in its Office suite, especially its Web apps.

Nadella also clearly recognizes the potential pitfalls of the so-called Internet of Things — that we could be overwhelmed by a wave of data that we simply can't grasp, let alone place in its proper context.

"Billions of sensors, screens and devices — in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs — are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives," Nadella writes. "This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention."

It's easy to dismiss this notion of "reinventing" the company through its products as simple marketingspeak. And Microsoft's product portfolio won't change; Nadella identifies Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Bing and Dynamics as parts of the roster Microsoft will offer going forward.

 

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