CEO Nadella to DC audience: Microsoft to focus on productivity


Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during a keynote session at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella told a Washington audience on Wednesday that the company plans to emphasize productivity platforms — applications for e-mail, file-sharing, and video communication, for instance — in an attempt to make Microsoft’s technology “pervasive and ubiquitous.”

During a keynote at the Worldwide Partner Conference — Microsoft’s annual convention, held this year in downtown Washington — Nadella shared his vision for the tech giant at the Verizon Center.

“We’re going to get very focused on building out these digital work and life experiences — this next generation of productivity, broadly defined. Everything else we do supports it. We’ll build platforms in the cloud for it, we’ll build platforms in the device for it,” Nadella said.

Nadella, who succeeded Steve Ballmer as chief executive in February, added that Microsoft also plans to focus on “dual use” devices — smartphones, laptops and tablets that consumers keep for both work and personal uses.

“This entire notion that somehow I’ll buy my device for consumption, and personal use, and then I’ll give up that device for work and take another device, just doesn’t work. We know that. And simply saying “[bring your own device”] is not good enough,” he said. Products should be built for both purposes, he added.

Nadella noted that the Internet of Things — a term for a connected network of devices, objects and sensors — creates a several trillion dollar opportunity. He predicted that billions of people will soon have connected devices, and hundreds of billions of sensors will be collecting and transmitting data to the network.

“The amount of application development that spans all of that computing is going to explode. [Applications] are going to both generate tons of data, they’re also going to consume and reason over that large data . . .All of this results in an explosion in spend and a shift in spend,” he said, noting that “as a percent of [Gross Domestic Product], IT spend is on a secular increase.”

During a demonstration, Nadella and Steve Clayton, editor of Microsoft’s innovation blog, demonstrated an “Internet of Things” application that could collect data from physical sensors deployed in an elevator system.

Users could track average time doors took to open, and when equipment needed maintenance, for instance.

The two also demonstrated a language translation feature in Skype, the Internet-based communication company Microsoft bought in 2011; the application automatically translated Clayton’s words, spoke in English, into German as he video-chatted with a friend.

“In all this abundance of computing power, what is scarce? It’s human attention,” Nadella said. “It’s time for us to reinvent productivity so that every individual on the planet can get more out of every moment of their life.”

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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