Microsoft will be the productivity engine for the internet of things, says CEO

11 Jul 2014

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told workers that the software giant will no longer be known as a “devices and services” company – instead, Microsoft will focus on being the productivity company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.

In the coming years, the world will be awash with devices that communicate with each other and intelligence will be everywhere – say hello to the internet of things – but someone has to make the tools that make sense of it all if people and businesses are to remain productive.

This is a golden opportunity for Microsoft, Nadella told workers.

“We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world,” Nadella said. “Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. 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.

“This computing power will digitise 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.

“In this new world, there will soon be more than 3bn people with internet-connected devices – from a farmer in a remote part of the world with a smartphone, to a professional power user with multiple devices powered by cloud service-based apps spanning work and life.”

Nadella reasoned that the combination of so many devices and cloud services that consume data creates an opportunity for Microsoft to hold the same sway in the mobile-first and cloud-first world as it enjoyed in the 1990s and 2000s when the PC and internet revolution raged.

He said it is vital that someone strikes the balance between using data for intelligent, personal experiences, while maintaining security and privacy.

Who else but Microsoft can make the broadest impact in pursuing such an endeavour?

The next Microsoft


Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, addresses the company’s employees

“Microsoft was founded on the belief that technology creates opportunities for people and organisations to express and achieve their dreams by putting a PC on every desk and in every home,” Nadella said.

“More recently, we have described ourselves as a ‘devices and services’ company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

“At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Nadella said Microsoft thinks about productivity for people, teams and the business processes of entire organisations as one interconnected digital substrate.

“We also think about interconnected platforms for individuals, IT and developers. This comprehensive view enables us to solve the more complex, nuanced and real-world day-to-day challenges in an increasingly digital world. It also opens the door to massive growth opportunity – technology spend as a total percentage of GDP will grow with the digitisation of nearly everything in life and work.

“We have a rich heritage and a unique capability around building productivity experiences and platforms. We help people get stuff done.”

It is interesting and timely that Nadella has felt the need to describe Microsoft’s new focus and mission.

Indeed there have been seismic shifts in how we view computing – from viewing them as devices on our desks to the powerful devices in our hands and soon on our wrists or on the bridges of our noses.

There are tectonic shifts happening in the computing world and the very notion of productivity needs to take a leap from email and videoconferencing to sensing and predicting as we move through the world.

Microsoft also faces enormous pressure from not only Apple but also Google – both companies have their eye on the prize of igniting internet of things revolutions in areas such as medicine, transport, and the digital home.

But unlike Apple or Google, Microsoft has a distinct edge in terms of the workplace and the enterprise in terms of security, server computing, and virtualisation.

“Microsoft has a unique ability to harmonise the world’s devices, apps, docs, data and social networks in digital work and life experiences so that people are at the centre and are empowered to do more and achieve more with what is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity – time!”

For Microsoft’s sake, let’s hope the workers grasp the nettle, forget everything they thought they knew about computing to date and buy Microsoft the time it needs to gain an edge in a virtually unrecognisable computing landscape from its heyday, when desktop operating systems were computing as we knew it.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years