Microsoft CEO Nadella: We're Building Systems Of Intelligence - InformationWeek

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3/16/2015
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Microsoft CEO Nadella: We're Building Systems Of Intelligence

Microsoft and CEO Satya Nadella are looking beyond Dynamics to focus on empowering individuals, businesses, and industries with new technologies. Those are the themes at this year's Convergence show.

Windows At 30: Microsoft's OS Keeps Evolving
Windows At 30: Microsoft's OS Keeps Evolving
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ATLANTA -- "I think we are at the dawn of a new generation of business systems," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during his keynote at this year's Convergence 2015 conference here. The show officially kicked off on Monday with Nadella detailing his vision for how business will change, and what Microsoft is doing to facilitate that change. 

Nadella described a range of changes to the way that Microsoft approaches business technology, which is evolving as rapidly as technology itself. "[The Microsoft identity] is very focused on one single thing: It is about empowering you, as individuals and as organizations, to be able to drive your agenda and achieve more," he said.

Microsoft hopes to achieve this goal through three strong ambitions, the first of which is creating a new era of more personal computing. Windows 10 is a milestone on the journey towards more personal computing, said Nadella, as one system that functions similarly across all devices and platforms running it.

Currently 3 million people are testing Windows 10, Nadella noted.

Its second ambition is reinventing productivity and business processes, "where the most interesting things happen inside our organizations," he continued. The third is building an intelligent cloud. A key focus is developing a rich cloud infrastructure that lends itself to the complexity and adversity present throughout different industries.

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The focus is less on specific systems, he noted, and more on building "systems of intelligence" through empowered individuals, businesses, and organizations. Such broadness is reflective to the new approach Microsoft has taken to Convergence this year, going beyond Dynamics and CRM to focus on the analytics, cloud, and data sources -- a turning point for the conference.

Nadella emphasized that ultimately, empowering organizations through new technology starts with people. Businesses cannot move forward with technology adoption until their employees are comfortable with using new products on an individual level. Those products, like Microsoft Band, collect data that eventually can be used to inform decisions.

"Devices will come and go," Nadella noted. "The most interesting thing is the data that's being collected." He alluded to his personal use of the Microsoft Band, which is used to track his activity levels and caloric intake. You can compare data with other individuals, Nadella said, drawing attention to another Band user who exercised for three hours and nine minutes each day.

That Band user, the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson, made a brief cameo to chat about his use of Skype, OneNote, and Microsoft's Surface tablet.

Russell Wilson joins Nadella onstage.
Russell Wilson joins Nadella onstage.

Microsoft is not in the device business, Nadella emphasized in his speech following Wilson's appearance. "We are in the empowerment business."

In an effort to better empower businesses, Microsoft rolled out a series of announcements intended to enhance productivity across industries. These include new updates for, and expanded rollout of, the Office Delve social interface for businesses in addition to an Azure IoT Suite to connect Microsoft’s cloud computing platform to networks of devices.

Microsoft also announced that Office 2016 will expand beyond its existing private customer preview for testing by IT professionals and developers. The current version of Office doesn't contain the full range of features that will be available in the final product, but customers will receive updates throughout testing. Technical improvements include broadened data loss protection to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and "click-to-run" deployment features for managing Office distribution throughout a network.

In addition, a new technical preview of Skype for Business will be released in the coming weeks, as will a new version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The goal of empowering industries will largely be driven by the Internet of Things, said Nadella. There will be 26 billion Internet-connected devices by 2019, Microsoft predicts, all generating a combined total of 44 zettabytes of data.

At it looks towards the future, Microsoft plans to work to "make sure everyone has the tools, the capabilities to gain these insights and then empower them to act on these insights," Nadella said in his concluding words.

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
3/16/2015 | 6:26:36 PM
The Empowerment Business
It's interesting reading your write-up of Nadella's comments: I'm at Enterprise Connect in Orlando this week and I'm hearing very similar things from both Microsoft executives and executives from other companies. It's amazing how many comments start with, "You know, Microsoft has new leadership..." and go on to mention cooperation and partnerships that were deemed unthinkable not long ago. It does seem like Microsoft is serious about helping build systems that empower people -- whether those systems feature Microsoft's logo as the largest on the box, or not.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/16/2015 | 9:49:39 PM
Finally, a little clarity
"We are  not in the device business. We are in the empowerment business," says Satya Nadella. That's the first statement of clarity I've heard out of Microsoft on its foray into devices. I've always thought it's a software company first, and it was likely to constantly be on thin ice with device design.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
3/16/2015 | 10:24:58 PM
Re: Microsoft CEO Nadella: We're Building Systems Of Intelligence
While Mr. Nadella's statement do ring a bit generic conference hype-talk, there is definitely a legitimate grain of truth in there about how the technologies we use every day should impact the way we work, as well as the ways in which they shouldn't. There seems to be some subtle acknowledgement in there from Microsoft about mistakes that were made during the Windows 8 period. 'User Friendly' doesn't always mean simpler (vis-a-vis Windows 8 charms) - it means being amenable to the way the person using the device wants to use it. Savvy users were extremely unhappy with how hard they had to work to get Windows 8 to just behave like a normal operating system, but I've heard that Windows 10 offers more flexibility in setting your defaults and even embraces some linux-like methods for development and administration via command line. Sounds good to me!

The idea that Microsoft would embrace this mentality across all it's products and services is certainly a cheering one. They've been crowing about interoperability since before I knew what that word meant, so I'll let the final product speak for itself, but it sounds promising. The possibility that a social tool like Office Delve would also exemplify this 'work how you want' style (instead of pushing seldom-used features) and integrate seamlessly with other microsoft devices and software that are also doing it (well) does paint a nice picture of the workplace of tomorrow that Microsoft would be happy to have littered with Microsoft products... but, as Curt says, it's smart of them to accept that even that won't involve them gaining back all the space they've lost in the mobile and others markets and promise interoperability with others' products. Maybe everyone deserves a second (tenth?) chance.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
3/16/2015 | 11:27:06 PM
Re: The Empowerment Business
I agree, Curt. Microsoft is really making an effort to work with its competitors - not against them - in an effort to broaden their reach among consumers. The rollouts of Office for Mac and Android are key in this, I think. At one session today, an attendee even remarked that years ago, IBM would have never been at Convergence. Now it's a sponsor. MSFT has really turned around. 
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
3/16/2015 | 11:50:30 PM
Re: Finally, a little clarity
I do like the concept of Microsoft as an empowerment company - it is fitting, given all its teams are trying to do in developing products for businesses. It also leaves room for its hardware division, even though its strength is in software. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
3/17/2015 | 5:20:18 AM
Nice Hed
I am not one of those rabid Microsoft critics, but if I was, the headline would be too good to resist making a "Great! It's about time they got some intelligence at that company!" joke.

So I will decline to make it.
smarttrends
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smarttrends,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/17/2015 | 12:17:51 PM
Prove it
He is all talk!

When the mega corporation known as MSFT seeks to only hire the lowest, dumbest, cheapest, least paid and sometimes working-for-free engineers,

how can this ever be an intelligent company? Especiously since the CEO bought his way into the position with celebrity degrees and political affiliations and insists on hiring everyone from his village.

 

They should stick with what they known best. IT SUPPORT!

 
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
3/19/2015 | 8:47:52 AM
Re: Prove it
That has been the dilemma of Microsoft for quite some time now where they have preferred the intellect over affiliations. The trend is visible by their consistent downward direction whether it is sector where they were going good or where they were average.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/23/2015 | 10:23:24 PM
Re: Prove it
@nomii: Indeed. Somehow I don't trust Nadella in what he's promising us. He simply isn't that good a CEO, but he has got time to prove it. Basically SoI is another fancy name for in-business IoT. 
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/23/2015 | 10:25:29 PM
Re: Nice Hed
@Joe: You are not wrong. Nadella has had too many opportunities. He better now screw up the newer Microsoft offerings with the Windows 10 and the hololens.
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