Microsoft after Windows: a new normal for the company

The last week has seen a transformation of Microsoft: Windows relegated to just one product, a more open approach to other platforms, and great new software. Will it be enough?

Gosh. What a week. Not only do we have the NEXT14 schedule for you to pursue, but we also have an almost comply different Microsoft from the one we were talking about only a few days ago.

Make no mistake – change is the only constant of the new normal, and as we’ve discussed before, the old Microsoft was a company built for the old normal. Can a new CEO turn it into the sort of flexible entity it needs to stay relevant?

The Flexible Microsoft

The initial answer seems to be a resounding “yes”. The most prominent announcement was the launch of Office for the iPad last week – but more on that in a moment. What I found more interesting was the e-mail that appeared sandwiched between that launch and the Build conference this week:

Today marks the start of another big week for Microsoft as we gear up for the Build conference in San Francisco. We continue to push on the momentum from last week’s news about how we will thrive and grow in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, as shown by the great Office apps for iOS, rich new APIs for developers and our new Enterprise Mobility Suite.

In advance of Build, I want to highlight three announcements about how we’re continuing to evolve and tune our organization for maximum focus and impact.

It took me three reads of this e-mail to realise what was so significant about it: there was no a single mention of Windows anywhere. This comes hard on the heels of it dropping “Windows” from the name of Azure, its cloud product.

The New Normal Microsoft

This is a very far cry from the days of Microsoft of yore, which was all about putting Windows everywhere. Windows is still an important product to them – but it’s just that. A product. It’s not the entirely of their business.

Suddenly we’re on a course to Microsoft as a platform-agnostic products and services company. This is not just words – it’s hard actions. Sure, it offers its own platforms – and will continue to do so. Indeed, the announcements from Build so far make that clear. But, philosophically, the company is becoming much more about being the back-end that allows us to get the tasks we need to get done finished – and easily and well.

That seems like a good vision for a company in the new normal.

Office at home on iOS

And that brings us right back to Office on iOS. And…

It’s good. Surprisingly good. It feels like Office, yet very much in the iOS way of doing things. This is very evidently not something that’s been knocked up since Satya Nadella took over as CEO – but something that has been waiting, and possibly held back for political reasons.

This is the end of the Microsoft that was using Office as a tool to prop up its struggling mobile efforts, and the beginnings of a Microsoft that has customers on whatever device they choose to you. The company has chosen to be relevant in the mobile age, and prepare itself for whatever comes next.