I’ve been sitting in the garden, my Windows phone in my pocket, and browsing the web on my Surface RT. where I read with great interest Satya Nadella’s recent mail to Microsoft Employees. Microsoft kindly posted this email this morning at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/ceo/index.html. Not only a smart move making the email before Mary Jo managed to get a leaked copy, but the contents are very exciting.
I opined a bit over a year ago that Microsoft needed new management. A view that did me no favors in parts of Redmond. The whole devices, phones and games vs. Azure vs. the ‘what keeps Microsoft afloat (Windows, Office, SQL, Exchange, Lync)’ was simply confusing. And the Cone Of Silence imposed by folks no longer at Microsoft was leading to a very closed culture which IMHO was not helpful for the customer.
But things have changed and that Cone of Silence seems to be a thing of the past. Jeffrey Snover noted at TechEd, The PowerShell team at least is back to working in Internet time as two new exciting builds of PowerShell V5 the team pumped out this year so far.
In July last year, Steve Ballmer set out a new direction, devices and services. That there was a new direction was a really good thing, as was Microsoft’s overarching goal of One Microsoft. And his departure and replacement with Satya was another major change. To me, he’s more than just a safe pair of hands!
But there was still confusion – why lead with the two areas Microsoft has been weak with (consider the relative success of Zune, Kin, Surface RT, BPOS, to name but a few) when the cash cows and technological leaders (Windows and Office) were put in a distant second place. Satya notes that the ‘devices and services’ description was useful as a start, there is a need to hone on on a more detailed strategy (which is not so devices and services focused).
Today’s mail calls Microsoft ‘the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.’ To me this makes a log of sense and eliminates some of the confusion. It puts the platform in it’s place as just that, a platform. A platform to empower productivity. This approach seems to me to make a lot of sense. But as ever the devil is in the detail – Satya notes there is quite a lot of work to be done that will require nothing less than a complete transformation of Microsoft the company. That is a tall order, but the strategy sure seems sound.
The email also talks about the ‘Device OS.’ Which one is that going to be will be an interesting question for resolution. I personally love my Surface 1 RT. I use it daily as a device for consumption of content and some limited creation. Then there’s the Phone OS (I have Windows Phone 8.) It, too, has it’s moments. Finally, there is the traditional Windows as running on the Surface Pro and higher pc/server SKUs running on higher performance hardware. My use of traditional Windows is limited to my desktop and laptop, where I can type a whole lot faster than on the phone (and arguably more accurately). I think we have some interesting changes to the core product roadmap and I am looking forward to that being shared.
Microsoft is changing, and in a good way. The next couple of years is going to be very interesting. The Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times seems to have come home to roost! I look forward to the coming year.