Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 - What I Learned in Washington D.C.
By Todd Ziesing, Terrace Software, Inc. San Francisco, Ca.
Last month I attended the 2014 Worldwide Partner Conference for Microsoft (a.k.a. #WPC14). It’s been a few weeks since the last day so I thought I would write up a few thoughts from the field. I have attended many, many Partner Conferences over the years and have witnessed several big shifts by Microsoft as a result. The conference this year will be marked as another one of those big shift years.
As we all know Satya Nadella was named CEO of Microsoft in February. Since that time he has aggressively moved to reshape Microsoft to bolster core assets while positioning the company for accelerated growth leveraging this next wave of technology transition upon us. This conference reflected his vision.
We have all heard the mantra of "Mobile First, Cloud First" repeatedly since February 4th. But what does it mean and how will it impact Microsoft clients and partners and competitors? WPC14 clarified this vision for me and set the stage for an updated strategy and execution to implement this vision over the coming months.
If I had to sum up the vision I would emphasize two key themes: One Microsoft and Productivity.
One Microsoft: The theme of One Microsoft was everywhere - at least at the senior executive levels (Turner, Nadella, Prophet). To me One Microsoft means Microsoft is the Product. Offerings like Office 365, Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, XBox Services, etc. look to me to all become facets of the Microsoft product. There were many times when we heard that ‘Product Silos’ are dead. We heard about teams being brought together and flattened out in order to deliver a more contiguous and unified experience to the Microsoft user. This is a very big change for Microsoft and it will take some time to implement. But the message seemed to be clear. Microsoft needs to deliver together - a harmonious experience - across all offerings - unified - simple - effective. And, it needs to do so across any device.
At WPC14 Microsoft emphasized that they now feel like underdogs. In the PC marketplace they have high penetration (something in the low 90%) but in the devices arena they see themselves as very under adopted (something around 14% penetration). These two statistics are stark and I think Microsoft intended to shock the audience (Partners) into action. The vision for One Microsoft - as I heard it - is to deliver the Microsoft experience across any device anywhere. If you think of the each Microsoft offering as ‘dial tone’ (e.g. Office 365, Dynamics, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Azure, Bing, XBox, etc.) and you extend this ‘dial tone’ to any device, any O/S, any form factor then you probably have the essence of the messaging for One Microsoft. Mobile first, Cloud first.
Microsoft’s legacy is Windows Desktop and less so Windows Mobile. I think you will see Microsoft improving the Windows experience but doing so without favoring it ahead of other O/S’s and devices. Windows will need to compete against other user operating systems - both on premise and cloud. I think Microsoft ‘dial tone’ will be release driven based on market adoption of any device and O/S. This is exemplified by looking at the market release strategies for Skype and OneNote. These two offerings are everywhere on all the major O/S’s (Windows of course, iOS, Android, Generic Browser, etc.)
Productivity: The second overarching theme was Productivity. Microsoft understands it’s assets. Core productivity tools initially delivered to the enterprise and extended to the personal space. This is a key position of strength for Microsoft and they are definitely acting to leverage this strength. Microsoft Productivity ‘dial tone’ across any device at any time - well enabled for both the work and personal realms. Satya Nadella said it very well:
"We’re going to get very focused on building out these digital work and life experiences — this next generation of productivity, broadly defined. Everything else we do supports it. We’ll build platforms in the cloud for it, we’ll build platforms in the device for it", Nadella said. “This entire notion that somehow I’ll buy my device for consumption, and personal use, and then I’ll give up that device for work and take another device, just doesn’t work. We know that. And simply saying “[bring your own device”] is not good enough,” he said. "Products should be built for both purposes" he added.
Impact for Partners
This is the vision for the Nadella era. I think it’s timely and right on point. But what does it mean for the Microsoft Partner community? I think it’s simple. The successful Microsoft Partner going forward will get behind One Microsoft and Productivity with a Mobile First, Cloud First delivery model. It means that the successful Microsoft Partner will deliver across all Microsoft bits from the Cloud (Azure) to the Productivity Worker (Office 365) to the Back Office (Dynamics) to custom applications (MSDN, Visual Studio, SQL Server, etc.). It means that Partners must cross product boundaries to cover the spectrum of the Microsoft brand. And it means that ultimately the successful Microsoft Partner will most likely add Managed Services to their Solution Offerings.
I came away from WPC14 very energized. I was not excited because it was a great event with interesting sessions and fun social moments [which it was]. I was energized because I think Microsoft has their mojo back again. Lets watch together to see if Microsoft can unfold this vision into an executable plan to make it happen. For me I think they ‘get it’ and are once again positioned to be a very strong competitor in their target markets.