Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has a strong record of delivering on his promises and we’re now beginning to see what that looks like. While we’ve already told you a great deal about the company’s recent advances in big data, OneDrive, Office 365, Azure, PowerBI, predictive analytics and Cortana + Bing, this week we’re getting a peek at how the company’s productivity apps might work in its mobile-first, cloud-first world.
We predict that they’ll be like spokes on a wheel with the individual in the center, thereby eliminating silos between our professional and personal lives.
After all, the generation of workers that brought Bring Your Own Device (BOYD) into the workplace isn’t going to want to toggle between roles.
Productivity for a New Generation
This is, more or less, the vision that Nadella articulated in his keynote at the Microsoft’s Worldwide Partners conference last July.
“Microsoft is the company and its partners are the ecosystem that is going to reinvent productivity for this new generation. That is something that's unique to us. That's in our core, that's in our soul, and that's what we're going to go do. For us to reinvent productivity so that every individual on the planet can get more out of every moment of their lives is a great mission. That is what we need to go solve. That is where we get to add value.”
And one of the ways that Microsoft plans to achieve this is by interacting with you in (almost) every aspect of your life, even as you move from dropping your kids off at school, to meeting a client for breakfast to reviewing an Excel spreadsheet with your boss to bringing your concerns up at the parent teacher conference you’ve got scheduled for late afternoon.
Everything that you need will always be at your fingertips, whether it’s on a big screen, a tablet, a phone, and, yes, even a watch face. (More about the latter below.)
And it won’t be only visual, Cortana — the Siri equivalent on the Windows phone — will be there to answer your questions, provide insights (even analytical) and information for customer meetings, fetch and give driving directions, company financials, and remind you that you’re approaching the dry cleaners where your clothes are ready for pickup.
If this sounds invasive, consider that your digitized info is already out there, wherever you’ve chosen to share or store it. What Microsoft’s OS for human activity will likely do is bring it together and keep not only your personal stuff safe and private (according to your preference), but keep your work documents and other assets under your employer’s control.
A Glimpse of Things to Come
Though it’s a bit of a leap, this week we probably got a glimpse of how some of this might be delivered.
First, there’s the Next Lock Screen app for Android phones, a Microsoft Garage project that the company put out for show yesterday.
It surfaces your commitments and lets you scroll through your calendar items without having to unlock your phone. If you need to join a conference call, it has swipe dialing feature, and there’s a quick app launch for moving into apps from the lock screen.
There’s also an app called Torque for Android watches which awakens Bing when you twist your wrist. You can then ask it questions like “How is the stock market doing today?” and get an answer in short order.
Will Microsoft Watch be an Enterprise Play?
This week various news sites, including Forbes and Venture Beat, have reported that the rumored Microsoft smartwatch might have an Enterprise play and integrate with Outlook and Lync.
While we’re not willing to wager whether Redmond will actually build a device (though they did file a patent), the innovations coming out of the Microsoft Garage certainly have workplace productivity app appeal.
There’s no reason that they’d have to be hosted on a Microsoft branded device, which almost inherently lacks sex appeal. But for a generation that grew up gaming, an xBox branded play might work.
Will Microsoft really reinvent productivity? Time will tell, but at the moment Nadella and his team hold a powerful vision and a good hand of cards.