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'We help people get stuff done': New Microsoft CEO dumps device and services focus, embraces productivity

Brad Chacos | July 11, 2014
Almost a year to the day after then-CEO Steve Ballmer reorganized Microsoft away from software and around a "devices and services" theme, his successor has issued a sweeping manifesto of his own, tightening company's core mission.

Almost a year to the day after then-CEO Steve Ballmer reorganized Microsoft away from software and around a "devices and services" theme, his successor has issued a sweeping manifesto of his own, tightening company's core mission.

"While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy," Satya Nadella wrote.

Instead of being a devices and services company, Nadella now says that at its core, Microsoft is "the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." Perhaps to drive the point home, Nadella doesn't even mention Windows until 22 paragraphs into his screed. Windows Phone gets a shout-out first, thanks to a mention of the Cortana digital assistant.

Microsoft's focus going forward is on productivity, be it Office-style productivity or less traditional definitions of the word. And yes, Nadella says Microsoft will focus on its web of devices and services to enable that.

"Productivity for us goes well beyond documents, spreadsheets and slides. We will reinvent productivity for people who are swimming in a growing sea of devices, apps, data and social networks. We will build the solutions that address the productivity needs of groups and entire organizations as well as individuals by putting them at the center of their computing experiences. We will shift the meaning of productivity beyond solely producing something to include empowering people with new insights."

That, of course, will be aided by Microsoft's machine learning and ubiquitous computing endeavors — two initiatives that Nadella has been keen to push during his short reign thus far. Those are basically fancy buzzwords for using big data and cloud computing to help you in your everyday life and delivering a seamless experience across devices, the results of which we're already starting to see in the cross-device syncing capabilities of Windows 8 and SkyDrive, as well as Microsoft's recently unveiled Universal Apps that span Windows 8 and Windows phone alike.

Speaking of which, Nadella also specifically says that bringing Microsoft services to competing platforms is a goal, as the company has already started doing with Office 365, Office for iPad, and the arrival of OneNote on Apple platforms:

"Apps will be designed as dual use with the intelligence to partition data between work and life and with the respect for each person's privacy choices... They will be built for other ecosystems so as people move from device to device, so will their content and the richness of their services it's one way we keep people, not devices, at the center."

Nadella makes one thing clear: While Windows and Office are still major foundations for Microsoft, simply peddling software is no longer the company's game. And while devices and services still play a role in the Microsoft of the future, they're just tools to be used to deliver productivity experiences, not the focus in and of itself.

 

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