Microsoft World Partner Conference in July saw Microsoft setting out its vision for the future. Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, provided lots of clues in his keynote speech. And he almost (but not quite) used the word Apple.
Microsoft is sticking to its mantra of a “cloud first, mobile first” world. That means it is working hard on sharing data via the cloud, linking different sets of data from different sources, and sharing information between different people who use different devices.
Cortana is Microsoft’s voice-controlled software, as in “Hey Cortana, what’s the weather in San Diego today?”. More usefully, Microsoft sees this developing into a complete data analysis tool, enabling people to extract more information from their data more easily, as in “Hey Cortana, show me the sales figures for March for our Boston office”. The software that will bring this together to share with our team is GigJam.
Recent acquisition Wunderlist indicates that Microsoft will be developing the way we work with our to-do lists and notes. Also featured was another acquisition, Sunrise, which will be changing the way we manage our diaries and shared calendars. And could Sway become the new PowerPoint? All these applications are available now, but the real change will come as their technologies are integrated into future Microsoft applications.
And what of Microsoft’s own hardware – Lumix phones and the Surface tablet? Well, Surface is definitely still in and featured heavily. Lumix phones, along with 7,800 Microsoft employees, have gone. Not a mention. Instead, one demo featured an iPhone and iOS (the Apple operating system) was mentioned. But Microsoft couldn’t quite bring itself to mention the “A” word.
The highlight of the keynote was HoloLens, holographic technology that might deliver a whole new virtual world of work. The entire keynote speech is on YouTube, but if you can’t spare all 50 minutes, just watch the last eight minutes on HoloLens. Awesome isn’t a word I use often, but as an insight to technology that might still be five years away for most of us, this was awesome.
It’s interesting times for Microsoft as it re-positions itself in the cloud first, mobile first world. The next few years will determine whether it retains its status as a global technology leader or it goes the way of Blackberry, video tape and steam locomotion.