Meet the new Microsoft, where the name of the game is making software developers happy and letting the consumer market work itself out.
In the last week or so, Microsoft has thrown in the towel on two of its big consumer-facing businesses: Last Tuesday, the display ad business, and today, a massive $US7.6 billion writeoff on its ill-fated acquisition of Nokia.
It’s a sad day for the up to 7,800 people — mostly former Nokia employees — who will probably lose their jobs, but it’s the right thing for Microsoft, and shows once again that Nadella is his own leader.
Indeed, it’s no coincidence that these big changes come not long after CEO Satya Nadella unveiled Microsoft’s new mission statement: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.”
Neither smartphones nor display ads fit into that mission (when was the last time an ad made you more productive?) — and, again, it’s probably no coincidence that in both cases, Microsoft was far from the dominant player, losing out to Google in both cases.
Instead, Microsoft is playing it smart and sticking to the stuff it’s good at: Namely, providing a platform for other people to build killer software that enables customers to get stuff done. Apple and Google may dominate the world of smartphones, but Microsoft is betting that it has a better story to make developers happy across the devices of yesterday, tomorrow, and today.
Microsoft Windows 10, launching this summer, is making a tremendous push for developers as it marches towards a goal of 1 billion installs worldwide. Microsoft is promising that Windows 10 is going to let developers write an application once and have it run on smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and even the futuristic Microsoft HoloLens holographic computer.
Indeed, even the Microsoft Xbox One video game console — once the subject of calls to get spun off into a separate business entirely — is going to become a flagship Windows 10 device with a software update coming at some point in the future.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Azure, the company’s product in the hot and growing cloud computing market where you can swipe a credit card and get access to essentially unlimited supercomputing power, is swiftly becoming a revenue driver for the company as startups and big businesses alike turn to Microsoft to power their web and smartphone apps.
Finally, Microsoft Office 365, the cloud-based version of the software that defined “productivity software” for a generation, is getting to be so popular that it’s actually cannibalising sales of the traditional boxed version of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft wants Office 365 to be a place for developers to build on top of, too, with big companies like Uber and Salesforce already signing on to integrate with the platform.
It’s been many years since ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously chanted “Developers, developers, developers” on stage, but it seems to be Nadella who’s taking that battlecry seriously and refocusing the company on becoming the best place for developers to do what they do — so customers can be more productive. It’s all part of the plan.
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