The Future Of Microsoft
I expected to see a new Microsoft start to reveal itself at the build conference last week and I wasn’t disappointed. Steve Ballmer has handed Satya Nadella a real gift, by allowing him to preside over the unveiling that Steve must have been orchestrating for years.
The new Microsoft is on it’s way to becoming a true Devices and Services business. It provides the tools to develop the services, host them and manage them regardless of operating system or language. It develops it’s own compelling services and apps to consume them on all devices. It provides development tools, and with partners, these can target ‘all’ devices. Finally, and it seems almost a distraction, it provides it’s own devices and the operating systems that run on them.
Whilst Windows is still important it needs to fade into the background and since it’s now free on all form factors except desktops and enterprise class tablets that’s going to be the case. Ironically Microsoft must now be one of the largest developers of iOS apps in the world, they have a large portfolio of truly impressive apps, perhaps more impressive than Apple have themselves. Their Azure cloud is rapidly evolving into an immensely powerful, flexible, cross platform reality. Their development tools are moving in the direction of being not just the best for Windows but the best for mobile too. Even Windows is showing real progress towards the promise of delivering one platform and one binary that can run on all form factors.
Microsoft, already a niche contributor to Open Source, is now a much more visible supporter having opened up two of their key technologies. A new generation of engineers are back in charge, engineers who respect and love the open web.
In Steven Elop Microsoft finally gets a leader with great stage presence and an ability to talk to everyman that Satya hasn’t quite mastered. But Satya, Terry Myerson and Scott Guthrie all showed that they know talk to developers.
Microsoft has given us a glimpse of it’s future, maybe it’s done enough to make people question its old ‘evil empire’ reputation. Now it needs to move fast to solidify the change and the best way of doing that is to start acquiring businesses that prove it’s prepared to put serious money behind this new future. Perhaps it needs to acquire enterprise Linux vendor Red Hat, and/or cross platform development tools vendor Xamarin.
Finally it needs to deliver on the promise of a compelling upgrade for traditional enterprise Windows users next year and a great version of Office for touch/pen enabled Windows devices too. Office on WinRT is critical to demonstrate that it’s really the future platform for ALL Windows applications. It can’t afford to focus on the future to the exclusion of it’s loyal existing customers, as it did with Windows 8.
The future looks bright to me, after a couple of years wondering where Microsoft was going Build finally made me smile.
Todays picture is a hundred year old tree in Astley Park. Despite it’s age it’s blooming very nicely, a nice metaphor for the aging Microsoft, rejuvenated by its young engineer leadership.