Microsoft WPC 2014: Future under Nadella less about Windows, more about mobile and Cloud

The company is moving away from its past devotion to its OS

The languages translation feature Microsoft is developer for Skype.

The languages translation feature Microsoft is developer for Skype.

Microsoft's future will be less devoted to its Windows operating system as it continues to push into mobile and cloud services, CEO Satya Nadella said, using his keynote speech at the Worldwide Partner Conference to talk about where the company is headed.

"We are the company and the ecosystem that will build productivity experiences and platforms for the mobile-first, cloud first-world," he said Wednesday at the WPC in Washington, D.C. "We will reinvent productivity for the new generation. We will empower every individual and organization to achieve more. That is our singular mission."

Achieving that goal may not always rely on Windows, he said.

WPC is the conference where Microsoft rallies its thousands of business partners, who sell customized Microsoft-based systems to enterprises across many different industries. Microsoft, which relies on partners for significant enterprise sales, uses WPC to inform them of its plans, as well as to talk about the company's vision of where information technology is heading.

Nadella took over the CEO role from Steve Ballmer in February and has wasted no time readjusting the company's mission to meet new market pressures.

While Ballmer stressed the need to have Windows across different devices, Nadella maintained in his keynote speech that Microsoft now is chiefly focused on providing products and services from the cloud and for a wide range of devices.

"You have to think of this next generation of computing as mobile first, cloud first, and our goal, simply put, is to thrive in it as an ecosystem," Nadella said.

Microsoft is in a unique position because it can harmonize the needs of organizations, individuals and developers through its services and software, he said.

"We're going to get very focused on building out these digital work and life experiences," Nadella said. "It's not multiple strategies, it's one core that represents the best of what we have."

Microsoft will continue to refine its software and services, such as for email or collaboration, but look for ways they can be combined to offer more value and used across multiple devices, whatever their operating system, he said.

"We are going to have our experiences on all platforms. On every home screen out there, our aim is to have one or more Microsoft icons. Anyone can enter from any device into our ecosystem," Nadella said.

The same hardware and software is useful in personal life and business, he said, addressing the larger bring-your-own-device trend.

Microsoft appears to be pursuing a goal similar to that of Apple and IBM, which announced a partnership Tuesday through which iPhones and iPads will be equipped with enterprise software and cloud services developed by IBM. Microsoft will offer a "control plane," or a core set of enterprise services such as data security, identity management, and device management, that can be run on multiple devices, Nadella said.

Nadella also demonstrated a few Microsoft technologies now being developed, including a new service for Office 365 called Delve. It collects any information that a user may find valuable and summarizes that material on a Facebook-like dashboard. Using machine learning, it can scour the Web for news items as well as investigate local networks for internal information of interest to the user. It keeps track of what meetings a user has attended and the person's most frequent contacts, folding this information into the selection process it runs to find more data of potential interest.

Like Facebook, Delve will be able to work on mobile devices and desktop computers.

He also demonstrated a translation service for Skype combining voice recognition, language translation and speech synthesis. In a call between two people who speak different languages, Skype will be able to translate the language of one speaker to the language of another as they are talking.

This service will allow people "to speak in two different languages, without any friction," Nadella said. Nadella offered a live demonstration with two people talking in an on-stage video conference. One spoke in English and the other in German as Skype translated the conversation for both.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
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