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Microsoft gets smart to the 'dual user' -- and to reality

J. Peter Bruzzese | Aug. 5, 2014
CEO Satya Nadella gets how the world has changed and how Microsoft needs to fit in the new tech landscape.

In the six months since Satya Nadella has taken the reins from previous CEO Steve Ballmer, we have seen Microsoft state its vision: mobile-first, cloud-first. This vision is an adjustment from the earlier, Ballmer-driven concept of Microsoft focusing on "devices and services." In a recent email to all at Microsoft, Nadella wrote, "While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy." That strategy revolves around the dual user.

Most of us -- from office workers to students -- lead two computing lives. One speaks to the needs of our job, and one resonates with our personal life. At work, we likely use Windows and Office and perhaps server-based services like Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. At home, we might use the same Microsoft tools (perhaps different versions of them), or we might use a Mac, iPad, Android tablet or PC, and/or Chrome OS computer and cloud services like our ISP's email service, Dropbox, Google Hangouts, and iCloud. It's this duality that Nadella is eyeing as Microsoft's focus.

With Nadella using phrases like "harmonize the world's devices," I get the sense that Microsoft is not giving up on its long-term concept of one OS to rule them all, championed by co-founder Bill Gates, even if Microsoft is relaxing how that OS appears to people working on different devices.

By viewing every user as a potential dual user, Nadella is pushing Microsoft's teams to work together to provide for both sides of a person's life. OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, Skype and Lync, Office for Windows, Mac, and iPad -- tools that people use at work can also be used at home, or at least work with and like the tools they use at home.

Not surprisingly, this focus is also leading to an opportunity to run leaner as a company, eliminating overlapping roles and personnel, leading to a cut of 18,000 jobs in the next year, the largest round of layoffs in Microsoft's history. Yes, two-thirds of those are Nokia employees, which Ballmer acquired last year for its mobile hardware business and Nadella is now shrinking. But a third are "traditional" Microsoft employees, people working on the products and services we thnk of as Microsoft. That's part of Nadella's desire for Microsoft to be more focused and leaner.

I have to say that all this change has me pretty excited. Microsoft is starting to grasp the mistakes of Windows 8, and it appears ready to make Windows 9 an apology to all. Perhaps the company will rename it Mea Culpa 9.

At the same time, Microsoft is growing its Azure and Office 365 cloud services with constant, aggressive development work happening on both fronts. The acqusition of and fat reduction at Nokia, coupled with tighter integration with Microsoft's technology and product teams, will most certainly lead to better mobile devices.


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