Satya Nadella at Build 2017
Satya Nadella kicked off Build 2017 with a new mantra and a new direction for Microsoft

Satya Nadella has found a new mantra.

In the three years since Nadella was appointed CEO, Microsoft has lived, worked and developed around his ‘Mobile First, Cloud First’ strategy. 

But during his keynote at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in Seattle yesterday, Nadella changed his tune. 

Changing Times, Changing Mantras

“It's no longer just mobile-first,"Nadella said. "The user experience itself is going to span all of your devices."

To summarize that, Nadella introduced a new mantra to drive Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft forward — at least for the next year: ‘Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge.’

And it’s all about evolution. 

When Nadella introduced ‘Cloud First, Mobile First’, it was a major step away from Microsoft’s then struggling Windows focus, which aimed to establish the company as a provider of cloud services.

Just over three years later, the technology landscape has changed and the new motto is designed to reflect that.

'All About the Data'

Three focuses drive this approach: artificial intelligence, cloud computing and data.

The company plans to build artificial intelligence into all of its apps and services. Cloud computing translates into accessibility for users — to their apps, their services, their data — wherever they are working, on any device or platform. 

Underlying all this is the data. "The platform shift is all about data,” Nadella said.

This means three different things for developers:

  1. They get the means to modernize existing apps,
  2. It becomes easier to build intelligent, data-driven apps for any platform, 
  3. They receive access to Microsoft cloud, artificial intelligence and mixed reality research.

The goal is to connect the data between the entire portfolio of Microsoft products, which would makes the exchange of data between LinkedIn, Office 365 and Cortana, for example, easier and seamless.

We have seen hints of how this would work in practice in the last few weeks, such as the integration of LinkedIn Sales Navigator with Dynamics 365. At the time Microsoft said it was only the beginning. Yesterday’s keynote took it a step further by turning this data exchange into a business model.

Microsoft’s Growing Reach

The move makes sense as it allows Microsoft to capitalize on its existing resources. Nadella's keynote also provided a sense of how far and deep Microsoft's reach into the enterprise has grown, with Nadella offering the following usage stats:

  • Cortana, Microsoft's Windows 10 digital assistant, is used by 140 million people every month
  • Office 365 has more than 100 million users per month in businesses or other organizations
  • Microsoft's cloud is used by more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500.

He also pointed out that Windows 10 is now being used on 500 million devices, a long way off the target announced at Build 2015 of one billion in three years.

Living on the 'Edge’

Microsoft's Azure Cloud plays a key role in this new world. 

Nadella sees Azure as a place where developers can build an app or a function and then push it out to workplace devices, or ‘edge’ devices.

‘Edge’ devices have become so powerful, he pointed out, it is possible to push processing power out to the devices themselves and not just keep it in data centers. This enables not only the widespread use of artificial intelligence, but also the ability to connect more and more devices to the Internet of Things.

“In a world of near infinite compute power and an exponential growth in data, we are focused on empowering every developer to build applications for this new era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge,” Nadella said.

One example of this that was previewed yesterday was Azure IoT Edge, which extends the intelligence of cloud computing to devices. But that is only the start of a process that will continue over the coming years.

As the Build conference continues, we can expect more discussion and practical examples to flesh out these themes which are setting the agenda for Microsoft’s future.