A few months ago, the long search for Steve Ballmer’s replacement at the head of Microsoft ended when Satya Nadella, formerly the executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise division, was promoted to the CEO position. To commemorate the start of the company’s fiscal year 2015, Nadella published an employee-addressed memo explaining how Microsoft will move forward, and how Xbox, Cortana, and Windows remain a core part of the company’s future.
At the start of the letter, Nadella explains how labeling Microsoft as a “devices and services” company isn’t quite enough, despite, well, all the devices and services it provides. “While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in our unique strategy,” writes Nadella.
“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.”
Nadella also explains how Microsoft will focus on “dual users,” who he defines as “people who will use technology for their work or school and also deeply use it in their digital life.”
“They strive to get stuff done with technology, demanding new cloud-powered applications, extensively using time and calendar management, advanced expression, collaboration, meeting, search and research services, all with better security and privacy control. Microsoft will push into all corners of the globe to empower every individual as a dual user – starting with the soon to be 3 billion people with Internet-connected devices.”
Nadella also explained how Cortana, the recently launched digital assistant for Windows Phone, will grow as a core part of the Microsoft experience, and that Xbox is one of the most valuable parts of the company’s holdings. That last bit quashes rumors about how Microsoft has been mulling selling off the Xbox division.
Indeed, ae focus on how Microsoft’s strengths lie in the cloud shouldn’t be too surprising given Nadella’s aforementioned previous position with the company. However, while Microsoft and its products have often been capable of doing everything from gaming to web browsing and getting work done, the last few years have seen the company push hard in the productivity category, mainly as a way to differentiate itself from the consumption-focus of Apple’s products. That split can be seen most clearly in ads for the Surface, where its productivity powers are put up against the iPad’s inability to get anything done.
That changed, of course, when Microsoft finally released Office for iPad in April, shortly after Nadella took the top spot. That move alone signifies Microsoft’s emphasis on productivity, rather than simply on devices and services. Office for iPad gives legions of Apple users the ability to get much more done with their iPads, something that was far more difficult prior to the release.
Nadella is wise to explain how Microsoft will find ways to better develop productivity among its customers, focusing on first party hardware as a somewhat secondary priority. Windows is still the undisputed king of the desktop operating system, and recent reports about Windows 9 signal that the company’s learned its lessons from the tepid reaction to Windows 8. And Microsoft’s greatest strengths have traditionally been focused on the ways it helps customers get things done, no matter what platform they’re using. Hopefully that means the company will develop great solutions for Android and iOS users to continue their Microsoft experiences away from their desktops.
Furthermore, if Microsoft can develop a compelling link between Windows on the PC and Windows Phone, perhaps it’ll start to make up some ground in the mobile space as well. Giving more users a compelling reason to continue their Windows experiences on the go could go a long way to helping make Windows Phone a more enticing mobile option. Connecting the Xbox brand with its mobile platform and devices, too, could make Windows Phone a contender in the next few quarters.
Will any of that happen? Will this be the year Microsoft resuscitates its tarnished reputation and surpasses Google and Apple in the world of making cool, must-have technology? The Surface Pro 3 is a great start – hopefully it’s not the end, too.