Microsoft CEO: Expect a friendlier, more flexible Microsoft

July 10, 2014

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures as he speaks at the company's "build" conference in San Francisco on April 2. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella hasn't let the grass grow under his feet since taking the company's top spot in February. Within weeks, he shook up Microsoft's executive staff and told his employees to stop acting like the "incumbent" in a fast-moving industry.

On Thursday, he took that message of rebirth even further, posting a massive, 3,000-word memo addressed to his employees that outlines his grand vision for a new Microsoft: the "productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world."

Everything Microsoft does, Nadella said, will serve that purpose.

"I am committed to making Microsoft the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work," he said. "[We] will obsess over our customers."

That means putting a heavy focus on software and Microsoft's cloud services — the division that Nadella used to run — with an aim of making all of its products work wherever people need to get things done. Basically, instead of chasing Apple's model for success with tightly tied devices and services, Nadella's more interested in taking a page from the Google playbook — be everywhere and on everything. Exhibit A: Microsoft's recent decision to put its Office suite on the iPad.

In fact, personal productivity is the key focus of Nadella's Microsoft.

Said Nadella: "Microsoft has a unique ability to harmonize the world's devices, apps, docs, data and social networks in digital work and life experiences so that people are at the center and are empowered to do more and achieve more with what is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity – time!"

That makes sense for two main reasons. Microsoft's existing strength is in the business world. But it's also seen that grip loosen as government and business workers have lobbied to use their own smartphones and tablets at work; it's no secret that Microsoft has been two steps behind in the mobile device world.

Analysts Daniel Ives and James Moore of FBR Capital fired off a quick note to investors saying that Nadella's vision does well to zero in on Microsoft's strengths while also emphasizing that the firm has to be flexible enough to make its products work on every platform.

"We believe this type of innovation is just what Microsoft needs and will translate into improved growth prospects over the next 12 to 18 months," Ives and Moore wrote.

While the bulk of the new memo focused on software, Nadella did make it clear that Microsoft isn't putting the brakes on its hardware efforts either. Microsoft did, after all, just buy Nokia's device division, and released a new version of the Surface Pro. But all Microsoft devices, Nadella said, will be made with the sole aim of showing off the best that Microsoft's software and services can provide.

"[We] will build first-party hardware to stimulate more demand for the entire Windows ecosystem," he said.

Nadella also had some words for gamers, putting to rest any speculation that he's planning to spin off the company's Xbox unit. Even though it doesn't exactly fit with the new vision, he said, it wouldn't be smart to lop off such a successful part of the company, either.

"As a large company, I think it's critical to define the core, but it's important to make smart choices on other businesses in which we can have fundamental impact and success," he said. "Microsoft will continue to vigorously innovate and delight gamers with Xbox."


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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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