Newly-installed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has offered the first hint that he is ready and willing to ditch the Windows legacy and move Microsoft into a sustainable and relevant future. In a letter to employees, Mr. Nadella dropped the "devices and services" mantra of his predecessor, Steve Ballmer, and called Microsoft a "productivity" company for a "mobile-first and cloud-first world."
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadells
From the letter:
More recently, we have described ourselves as a 'devices and services' company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.
At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.
This is momentous, and frankly it's made me think for the first time that Microsoft can reinvent itself. I have argued many times that Microsoft had allowed itself to become bogged down by its Windows legacy, and that the fear of losing that legacy was preventing the company from offering relevant tools for the future.
I am by no means sure that Satya Nadella can successfully change course for his tech behemoth, but the letter shows us he is at least willing to try.
"The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition," he wrote, "it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done."
Compare that to the hogwash Mr. Ballmer continually tried to foist off on the world. All that nonsense about Windows everywhere and one experience across all devices [whether or not the devices in question are suited for one another]. As Time noted, Windows isn't even mentioned until the 23rd paragraph. Instead of obsessing about Windows, Satya Nadella wrote at length about how productivity is his company's key asset. From the piece:
Productive people and organizations are the primary drivers of individual fulfilment and economic growth and we need to do everything to make the experiences and platforms that enable this ubiquitous. We will think of every user as a potential 'dual user' – people who will use technology for their work or school and also deeply use it in their personal digital life.
I don't know that I'd personally care to hang my hat on productivity as the end-all, be-all, but it's so much better than pretending anyone actually cares about Windows. That willful denying of reality long ago cost Microsoft its claim to any kind of leadership in the tech industry.
Next: Righting the Ship