When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella first took the job in 2014, it wasn’t long before he unveiled a new guiding mantra, encompassing his new vision for the company: “mobile first, cloud first.”
That mantra was a big departure for Microsoft — it had spent the last several decades pushing Windows above all else, while Windows market share languished and the Windows phone business failed to get any kind of significant traction. Nadella was declaring his intention to build applications that work across all platforms, not just Microsoft’s.
Now, at the Microsoft Build 2017 event this week in Seattle, Nadella unveiled a new “worldview” for the company, to reflect the latest developments in the tech industry. Now, at Microsoft, the watchword is “intelligent cloud.”
“It’s no longer just mobile-first,” says Nadella. “The user experience itself is going to span all your devices.”
In plainer terms, Nadella says that “intelligent cloud” simply refers to Microsoft’s drive to build artificial intelligence into all its apps and services. The goal is to make sure that whether you’re on a PC, a mobile app, or using a smart voice assistant, all your data and information is with you.
“The platform shift is all about data,” says Nadella.
Behind the scenes, that means Microsoft will have a renewed focus on making data from sources like Office 365, LinkedIn, and the Cortana virtual assistant a big part of its overall product offerings. By the same token, Nadella says that Microsoft is working to give developers using its technology access to more AI and other key tech.
It also means going beyond its considerable efforts in bringing Microsoft Office and other key apps to Apple iOS and Google’s Android. With voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s own Cortana on the rise, entirely new mediums like augmented reality starting to break through, and even the car dashboard becoming a computing platform unto itself, Microsoft is revising its goal beyond merely conquering the smartphone.
Still, “intelligent cloud” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, or the same clarity, as “mobile first, cloud first.” It will be interesting to see how this message resonates with the rest of the world.
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