Microsoft held its annual TechEd and Partner Summit events in Durban recently, combining the events, for once, into a solid four days of tech and talks, with a party or two thrown in for good measure.
The keynote address set the tone for the TechEd portion of the conference. Jason Zander, corporate VP of the Visual Studio Team, talked attendees through a lot of code, which baffled the business folk, but apparently excited a lot of the geeks.
Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati outlined the conference’s broader themes: “You’re going to see a whole bunch of devices of different shapes, sizes, form factors, speeds, and usage types. We need a world of devices, and they need to be smart. They need to create data, they need to connect to the cloud.”
Microsoft’s shift in focus to its consumer offerings was obvious, with Windows Phone getting a lot of airtime, and the company’s enterprise offering receiving far less headline attention than delegates had come to expect at such events.
RefocusAccording to Nyati, the company realised six months ago that it has a lot of assets related to consumers – XBox, Windows PCs, Office, MSN, Bing, etc. – but that none of them were being taken to consumers in a co-ordinated way, nor did they talk to each other.
“Plus, we saw the trend to the consumerisation of IT. If the company is not relevant to consumers in the long run, it will not be relevant to the enterprise,” he adds.
The consumerisation of IT is well-established and has been causing consternation among vendors and corporate IT departments for at least the past three years. It’s gaining momentum, helped rapidly along by the iPad, which dragged tablets into the mainstream when it launched.
Nyati says the company has put a new strategy together around the refocus, and made structural changes – like forming a Consumer Channel Group in every geography, which will, in future, work with companies that touch customers, like telcos, banks, and financial services organisations, ‘to make products more sticky’.
“It’s important that we have devices and products that talk to each other,” he says. “Users will see this new strategy in Windows Phone Mango – you can play Xbox from the phone, Zune is there, there’s integrated search, and all the assets are switched on via the phone. This will happen with all products in future. So, for example, Windows Phone 8 could interact with the desktop via voice, gestures, and so on.”
Microsoft is also working on a tablet, he says. “We believe there is space in the market. Current tablets are great for consuming content, but if you look at information workers, it’s not just about consuming, it’s about creating content too.”
Nyati says a tablet should be able to do the same things a laptop can. “You shouldn’t need to carry two devices,” he notes.
The company is heralding its refocus in the local market with a substantial above-the-line advertising campaign in the run-up to the festive season. “We’ll be advertising on TV, and so on. South Africa is one of 30 top markets (identified as growth markets by Microsoft) that we need to go into very strongly.”