Microsoft : Future Decided

31 October 2017

I am supposed to be independent in the context of IT advisory services, but I also think it’s important to have an opinion on technology vendors. I spent today at Microsoft’s UK flagship event, Future Decoded, held at the Excel in Docklands over two days – I only attended for the first day.

From start to finish, you cannot help but be impressed with how Microsoft have effected a transition (which they are still going through) from a dull vendor of fairly average operating systems to an end to end, progressive, software and services vendor.

Many IT vendors are struggling these days to remain relevant. Hardware is “so last week”, and the future is in software – with a particular focus on software that adds value to the operation of a business. As you listen to their well structured and well crafted pitch, you cannot help but see how Microsoft are positioned to be very very relevant for the foreseeable future.

The core tenet of the presentation content was how Microsoft products improve people's lives. Sounds cheesy, but they actually got away with it. Even their product pitch regarding the new Microsoft Surface focussed on usability and business benefit, rather than speeds and feeds, which for a product as dull as a laptop is pretty impressive.

But beyond the product pitches, Microsoft delivered a range of content which was genuinely amazing. They appear to be fostering a culture which encourages innovation, and as a result are delivering some fascinating projects. Creation of solutions to Parkinson’s tremors (we all welled up at that), supporting the search for a cure for cancer, development of Quantum technology based on science that most people didn’t understand, using artificial intelligence to improve customer service. Each case study was genuinely improving people’s lives, and whereas I’m too cynical to believe it all, the sheer volume and crispness of the content makes you believe.

And I think that is the benefit, and the danger, of this new approach. Microsoft have created a religion, where their CEO is the deity, and his new book is the bible. It is very easy to get swept along with it, and being honest I’m on that path along with a lot of the other 20,000 strong congregation today. However, certainly in the UK, believing your own hype can be a dangerous strategy and building such high expectations for their product set could lead to a significant backlash from a cynical IT buying community if not delivered.

For now however, I think a lot of their newer products are genuinely interesting and need to be considered by people on every level. Whether its core infrastructure stuff like Azure, the business application stuff in "Modern Workplace" or more sexy stuff like the Artificial Intelligence and Data platforms, they have a solution that could, indeed should, feature in most future business projects.

With their internal restructuring to focus more on the client, and their absolute internal focus on consumption of their cloud services, they will undoubtedly drive significant adoption of their full product portfolio. Their competition, of which there is much and varied, lack this breadth and should be concerned. Land and expand, when your products integrate so well in line with a common product strategy, actually works – especially when your trojan horse product is a universally adopted email platform like Exchange!

So, Bravo Microsoft. All you need to do now is fix the crapness of IE and Edge, and I’ll be struggling to find anything bad to say about you. For today anyway.

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