11 July 2014

Microsoft shakes things up yet again, will now focus on mobile and cloud not devices and services

satya nadella fist pump

Microsoft’s new CEO, just 12 months after Steve Ballmer declared that Microsoft was a “devices and services” company, is changing the behemoth’s course yet again. Starting from fiscal year (FY) 2015 i.e. today Microsoft is now all about mobile and cloud. In a letter that was emailed to Microsoft employees today, Nadella gushes forth with incredibly bold statements that try to define what he wants the company to be, and attempts to outline the extraordinary measures that must now be undertaken to actually get the company there.

Let’s start with what appears to be Microsoft’s new mission statement:

“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 organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

And Nadella is willing to be bold and ruthless to actually deliver on that mission statement, no matter what it takes.

“Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy. Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed. Tired traditions will be questioned. Our priorities will be adjusted.”

In case you were wondering, the photo above of Nadella fist pumping is used at the top of his letter. I assume this is to underline just how bold and strong he’s willing to be, or something.

microsoft our core satya

Mobile and cloud

After its brief foray into devices and services under Ballmer’s leadership an interesting sortie that resulted in the acquisition of Nokia and three generations of Surface tablets Microsoft is now changing its focus to “enable people to thrive in this mobile-first and cloud-first world.” Nadella argues that Microsoft has a “unique ability” to bring together all of your devices, documents, images, and social networks, so that “... people are at the center and are empowered to do more and achieve more ...“

To achieve this rather utopian vision, Nadella says that Microsoft’s engineering processes will need to change, too, so that they’re “more effective in predicting and understanding what our customers need and more nimble in adjusting to information we get from the market.” Here he is referring to how Microsoft has been constantly outmaneuvered by competitors like Google, and that it should technically be possible for Microsoft to still produce great software in less time but big changes will need to be made.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO

The letter goes on and on (it’s 3,300 words!), but the basic gist is that Microsoft really, really wants to be at the center of the personal computing universe again. Up until a few years ago, pretty much the entirety of Microsoft’s business model revolved around the Windows and Office monopolies. Now, with smartphones and tablets quickly accelerating past PCs, Microsoft is becoming less relevant by the day. Computing is moving irrevocably away from PCs, and so Microsoft now has to pivot or face an excruciatingly slow death.

There’s no doubt in my mind that mobile and cloud is the right focus for Microsoft. Nadella got that much right at least. What isn’t clear is exactly how Microsoft intends to go about reclaiming mobile and cloud from other big players like Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon. It sounds like the plan is to make some killer software that customers really want to use, and then rapidly iterate on its released to keep customers happy.

Curiously, I’m not entirely sure where this leaves things like Windows Phone, or even Windows 8′s Metro interface. I don’t think we’ll continue to see Microsoft butting its head against the wall for too much longer. I don’t think Microsoft is going to continue to force an unpopular operating system on its customers when Android and iOS continue to gain ground. It sure would be interesting if Microsoft instead focused on making the best productivity suite for iOS and Android.

Courtesy extremetech


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