Microsoft’s turnaround over the two years since Satya Nadella became CEO has been nothing short of phenomenal. During the Ballmer years, Microsoft had become increasingly sidelined and irrelevant, focused on aggressive and negative marketing techniques. Anybody remember the painful Microsoft Mythbusters video featuring then–Microsoft executive David Greschler and Hyper-V product manager Edwin Yuen? Not that you can find it anymore; all references I have located now link to the Microsoft store (even Microsoft is too embarrassed).
Gone is the bizarre behavior of Steve Ballmer, cringingly bouncing onstage, shouting “developers!” over and over again in a vain attempt to be seen as relevant. The current CEO exudes confidence. His quiet and thoughtful manner instills trust. You actually feel that this man is listening to what we, the customers, need from his company—not the other way ’round, as used to be the case.
Amazingly, considering its position two to three years ago, Microsoft is now rightfully seen as a leader not just in terms of market share and revenue, but once again in thought leadership. This is further evidenced by its dropping of its venerable Convergence conference in favor of a new conference called Envision. This is a new business-focused conference aimed at “business leaders.” To quote the company:
“Designed for CxOs and their senior department and functional leaders, Microsoft Envision provides an opportunity for attendees to hear from some of the most forward-thinking minds in business and technology, with each day featuring prominent industry visionaries and business experts who will share the latest ideas, trends and innovations. Participants can explore the latest solutions, and discover the strategies that will help them, their teams, and their business achieve more.”
Other things that have changed at the company include its anathema to anything non-Microsoft. It has shown an awakening to open-source software; last week Microsoft India hosted a conference/hackathon in Hyderabad called Openness.
And yesterday (April fourth—yes, I had to check that it was not the first) Microsoft made its newly acquired Xamarin SDK open source. Xamarin is an offshoot of Mono, a set of cross-platform development tools that aid developers in creating code that will run on IOS, Android, and Windows-based devices.
The more I see of Nadella, the more I feel that Microsoft will stay relevant. Its development teams have been invigorated,and Hyper-V 2016 is looking like a very tidy product. SCOM and SCCM will work nicely with Linux devices. Office for Mac 2016 has finally got some love and is approaching feature comparability with the Windows version.
Will Microsoft realize the cloud dream? Yes, Azure is gaining traction, and at a much more aggressive price point. Personally, I think Microsoft and VMware missed the boat with Ravello. That would have sealed the deal. That said, I believe not only that the company is looking at the cloud, but that Nadella is looking post-cloud, to a much more federated world where things work seamlessly together via the power of APIs. The Microsoft of today is much more focused on harmony than on warfare. It is looking to become the One Ring to rule them all, rather than the only ring in the box.