Microsoft WPC: A Sense of Realism

After a round of interesting and yet relatively reserved keynotes and production demonstrations, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner took to the stage of the Microsoft World Partner conference.

Not quite in the same skipping vein as former CEO Steve Ballmer was famous for, but his enthusiastic speech injected some much needed energy into the proceedings.

Turner is the one who lays out the company’s strategy for the year ahead and looks back on what he promised last year, so it’s always one to pay close attention to.

In 2013 Turner’s speech was all about the ‘year of transformation’ and the level of innovation taking place at Microsoft. He had a four point game plan for FY14 – win in mobile, accelerate customers’ move to the Cloud, compete to win (offensively doubling down on competition) and take customer satisfaction to a new level.

So how did he do?

This year’s speech had a sense of realism about it. Turner acknowledged that while Microsoft still dominated the PC market with a 90% share, that’s not the market anymore. That’s ‘the old world’.

The market now covers all devices, of which Microsoft have a 14% share. Turner says Microsoft are taking a ‘challenger mindset’ towards this, and they see it as an opportunity:

“At 90%, you protect and preserve. At 14%, you challenge…the reality is, the world has shifted and evolved.”

Microsoft are now focussed on disrupting the market, and will differentiate from the competition to get there fast. Last year Windows Phone was the third highest operating system, but it was a very, very distant third behind Apple and Android. Now, Windows Phone are No.2 in 14 markets, and 12 million Nokia Lumia 520s were sold last year.

Turner also said the Surface Pro 3 had received some great feedback, even from previous Surface doubters, and it was now all about taking on the MacBook Air and iPad directly. Take a look at this very funny review by David Pogue:

Have they got it right by saying customers don’t need a laptop and a tablet anymore, and instead a 2-in1 device like the Surface Pro 3 is all you need? I’m not sure; I think people will always need the best tool for the job…and sometimes that means using different tools. But I’m willing to reserve judgement until I’ve got my hands on the Pro 3, which I’m sorely tempted to purchase whilst I’m here.

So, have Microsoft won in mobile? Not yet, but the signs are promising.

Onto the Cloud. Microsoft have been criticised in the past for not being clear on their approach to this, and confusing customers with whether or not they were going to embrace it. Today, they couldn’t be clearer. They’re going for it, and I blogged yesterday about Microsoft’s dominance now in the Cloud space, compared to their nearest rivals Amazon and Google.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest growing release in all their nearly 40 year history, and though Turner said much the same last year (it was growing at 500%, and Microsoft Azure at 150%), the fact is that Office 365 is now on a $2.5b per year run rate.

The ‘anytime, anywhere’ approach to productivity that you get with something like Office 365 is absolutely on the rise, and it’s an impressive figure. “We still have a lot of work to do but we have a lot to be proud of,” he said.

Microsoft are also taking a clearer position on Big Data. It’s not about just trying to collect it, they’re bringing out the tools that will enable businesses to use it to make more informed decisions. Power BI is a focus, and SQL Server 2014 has a 30 times performance improvement.

8 zettabytes (yep, zettabytes – the only thing bigger is a yottabyte) will be used worldwide by 2015, and Microsoft are bringing out new programs and services that will enable businesses to make it easier to process, analyse, and make predictions from the massive amount of information we’re collecting. Azure Machine Learning is one of them, and you can read an interesting blog from our Finance Director Duncan Davies on this subject here.

Security was a major part of Kevin Turner’s keynote, which is appropriate given how much of a focus it needs to be for businesses today, and I strongly agreed with him when he said, “It [Security] is a CEO level decision and issue.”

There are 400 million victims of cyber crime every single year, despite the fact that $67 billion is the annual global spend on security. Turner announced some new security efforts would be making their way into the market soon and said, “We will continue to strengthen the encryption of customer data across our network and services…We will use world-class cryptography and best-in-class cryptography to do so.”

On customer satisfaction? Microsoft believe this is all about focussing on improving people’s productivity, enabling them to do more across all devices:

“We’re going to win in productivity. And we’re going to do it with first party hardware (ie. Surface, Windows Phone) and third party partnerships (such as their surprising bed hop with which you can read more about here), and not be closed and proprietary….we are embracing the realities of the mobile first, cloud first world.’

Focussing on the customer is what Satya Nadella spoke about on his very first day in office – it’s why they’ve taken this non-proprietary approach, and his keynote is up next so it will be interesting to hear what he’s got to say on this now.

Do stay tuned for the highlights from that one.