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[microsoft] Microsoft Miracle: How Satya Revived Tech Giant in Just 3 Years


Right after millions of people around the world finished Googling (sorry, Binging) “Who is Satya Nadella?” they turned their attention to the more pressing question: how on earth could a long-time company insider reinvigorate a stumbling behemoth of more than 120,000 employees and get it sprinting in the right direction?

Three years on he sat down with BOSS to share his thoughts on his leadership style, which could have come straight from a textbook. Thoughtful, inclusive, seemingly ego-less and openly working towards a higher agenda, he has quietly achieved a remarkable renaissance.

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Cracks in the Foundation

Despite remaining a profitable operation and despite Steve Ballmer being a long way from the buffoonish caricature that many portray, Microsoft had seriously lost its mojo.

In the fastest moving of all industry sectors, it appeared frozen in time; left standing by the iPhone and heavily reliant on its Office desktop software and Windows operating system, in a world where consumers and businesses had long since gone mobile and were using the cloud for much of their software.

At a time when Apple could do no wrong, Facebook was changing the world of communication and Amazon was blowing everyone away in cloud computing, Microsoft was the uncoolest 40-year-old imaginable.

To make matters worse, a self-destructive, cutthroat internal culture of competition between colleagues was still simmering just below the surface.

3-point Turn

  • Cloud: It has invested eye-watering amounts in infrastructure to make its Azure cloud computing infrastructure the main rival to Amazon Web Services in a hugely lucrative and fast-growing part of the market.
  • Software: It is also making major strides with its cloud-based Office 365 productivity software and Dynamics 365 enterprise offering.
  • Hardware: The company, which was once dragged through the courts in anti-trust trials, is openly working with big-name rivals and – perhaps most surprisingly of all – it is making genuinely cool tech products again.

    Its Surface computers have received rave reviews and have been positively compared to those from Apple. It has got the market intrigued by its mixed reality headset HoloLens and also sold its Xbox One entertainment console in huge numbers.

The Nadella Coefficient


in his first email sent to staff upon becoming CEO, Nadella warned his employees that they were operating in an industry that does not respect tradition and only respects innovation. He wrote that their job was to ensure Microsoft thrived in a mobile and cloud-first world.

This threw down the gauntlet for the organisation to step away from its comfort zone and measure itself by its achievements in areas it was losing to the likes of Apple and Amazon.

Where once the company was the very definition of a walled garden, jealously guarding its technology, it is now forming partnerships with major tech firms like Adobe, falling over itself to offer its services on Apple devices and is – staggeringly to the historically minded – embracing open source in a big way.

The Linux operating system, once described as a cancer by Ballmer, is now supported in its Azure cloud and last year Microsoft surpassed the likes of Facebook and Google to become the largest contributor to open-source code online exchange GitHub.

Intra Collaboration:

Central to the competitive culture within Microsoft had been the performance management system, by which all staff members were judged. It worked like a high school grading curve and was applied to teams across the company.

Nadella and his leadership team needed to demonstrate through their actions that the kind of behaviour that had gone before was no longer what was required within the company. Subsequently, he says, the perceived impossible task of redirecting a super tanker had been possible in a relatively smooth fashion.

Under Nadella’s One Microsoft philosophy: “I started to see it disappear, a dissipation of the dysfunction, the fighting, the pettiness and some of the craziness you see in a lot of corporate environments,” O’Brien says.

“Then there was collaboration, co-operation and trust that people could share their new ideas with other teams without it being bad for their performance review and bonus.”

My 2 cents:

“An industry that does not respect tradition, only innovation.” In this simple statement, Nadella revealed the entireity of Microsoft’s master plan: invest in the new frontier from both a product and service standpoint and a corporate culture standpoint.

From the product/service standpoint, the Microsoft Miracle was equally manifest in its choices of what to develop (Azure and HoloLens), what to double down on (Office 365, Office for iOS, Linux and Xbox) and what to pull the plug on (Nokia). By simultaneously diving into the our generation’s tech frontier and while prioritizing an open-source, cross-platform approach to development, Microsoft has become cool past curvy hardware or omnipotent software, Microsoft has become a partner in democratizing the abstract frontier for both the developer and the daily user.

From a corporate culture standpoint, Nadella’s high competence, low ego approach has become synonymous of Microsoft’s modus operandi. What Nadella so correctly identified was a GSIGSO (good stuff in, good stuff out) situation where product and service success in the external market needed to stem from a motivated and engaged Microsoft team in order to organically draw interest and advocacy. By lowering Microsoft’s ego, Nadella transformed the manner/tone Microsoft adopts when empowering its clients. The result has transcended advocacy: open source initiatives and participating customers now provide Microsoft with a powerful stream of insights to build off of.

Gone is the overbearing empire and the tyrannical product launch-adopt cycle. Under Nadella, the Microsoft user is the beneficiary of a Microsoft that is committed to absorbing the complexity and costs of harnessing new tech horizons and simplifying and distributing access for high-complexity and average-joe users alike.

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[linkedin] LinkedIn Problems Run Deeper Than Valuation


In little over a month, shares in LinkedIn lost over half their value — because of poor growth forecasts, fears over future income, and even investor concerns over a tech bubble.

The issues facing LinkedIn, however, go beyond the company itself.

The problem stems from each of the company’s revenue streams, which ultimately diminish the business value of using the service. In other words, LinkedIn’s business model inhibits the growth of the network; and the network growth is ultimately what its business model is reliant upon.

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LinkedIn is not, in fact, a business network — individuals on LinkedIn represent themselves, not their businesses. And as LinkedIn’s content is mostly user-generated, the incentive is for the users to produce material that promotes themselves.

This creates a conflict. Most people aren’t looking to change jobs all the time. Instead, they want to communicate and build relationships. However, because LinkedIn’s revenue streams and design restrict typical business forms of communication and facilitate paid ones, most interactions on the platform are low-frequency and one-directional in nature, such as recruitment offers and sales pitches.

As a result, LinkedIn is now, at best, a business card holder. At worst, it’s a delivery service for spam.

With both recruiters and top talent not finding what they need on LinkedIn, real business interaction is carried out on other platforms.

To reboot investor trust, LinkedIn needs to overhaul its strategy and stop incentivizing the worst behavior on the site.

The company needs to simplify its number of revenue streams and make sure that they work in concert with its user engagement and growth strategy, rather than in conflict.

Furthermore, if LinkedIn is to be a useful platform for sales organizations, it needs to focus more on the organisation, not just the individual. It must also utilize the vast amount of data that is not user generated and combine it with existing content to create a more complete picture of companies and their characteristics, vastly improving its ability to help sales and marketing teams.

Finally, the company should also end its protectionist policy with regard to its API. By not sharing its data with others, LinkedIn safeguards some of its revenues, but also restricts integration with business workflows – relegating the network to continue to be one focused on individuals rather than businesses.

My 2 cents:

LinkedIn’s heightened loyalty to its users as exemplified by its ads constraints, refusal to release data, and bias towards platform serving initiatives as opposed to integration channels is beginning to backfire. Users and recruiters alike are finding limited added benefit from hunting on LinkedIn and see it as somewhere between a social network and a job hunting medium. LinkedIn’s noble and brilliant push to generating a wealth of employment data is hitting a road block as its providers of information aren’t engaged to provide information, especially with rising competition that seems to get the job done on the job front.

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[google] Google and Microsoft Back Apple On Encryption Battle with FBI


You guessed it, tech giants rally around Apple to keep privacy and security sacred and valuable.

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The heads of Google and Microsoft have stood behind Apple in criticizing a court order to assist the FBI in breaking into an iPhone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino shooting.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai:

“Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy,” Pichai said. “We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data. Could be a troubling precedent.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:

“Technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure. RGS companies remain committed to providing law enforcement with the help it needs while protecting the security of their customers and their customers’ information.”

My 2 cents:

We knew this could be a rallying cry for the data vigilantes of the tech world and Google and Microsoft did not disappoint. In concluding the “Open Letter” mini series, we now effectively know that the privacy dispute will certainly feature the entire tech community.

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[microsoft] “Microsoft’s New Lumia 650 Is A $199 Windows 10 Phone”


Microsoft unveiled its first Lumia phones running Windows 10 back in October, and today it offered up a third and much cheaper variant.

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The Redmond-based company is billing the device as a business phone that represents an affordable way to get Windows 10 into your workforce’s pocket — “the smart choice for your business.”

The Windows Phone is officially an “ex-platform.” Microsoft’s phone-based revenue plummeted by 49 percent, with quarterly sales dropping from 10.5 million units to 4.5 million over one year. Even CEO Satya Nadella conceded that numbers have gone south since “our strategy change announced in July 2015.”

Yet, here we are, weeks later, with what seems like a nice looking, capable and wallet-friendly release. Another Windows Phone that you won’t and (since app developers care about whether the eyeballs — and companies have long shifted to bring-your-own-device) shouldn’t buy.

There have been rumors that Microsoft is preparing a service phone and that this is the last Lumia device we’ll see. That’s based on the company relocating the once-independent Lumia team into the Surface team.

My 2 cents:

Microsoft’s “cloud-first, mobile-first” mantra under Nadela has been lacking with respects to the latter portion, but moves are being made to change that. It’s more than just an affordable Windows 10 phone (which is still an overall no-go), its about the push in the service side of mobile (read Office Apps across platforms) and the enterprise space revolution (read 365 and Surface) Microsoft is committed to. With enterprise space relevance, cloud power, and insertion to current mobile OS’ Microsoft has another shot at making good on its mobile ambitions with an audience that is, at the very least, willing to hear what there is to be said.

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[microsoft] Reading, Writing and Minecraft?


Microsoft on Tuesday announced its acquisition of MinecraftEDU, one of the building blocks for its upcoming Minecraft: Education Edition.

MinecraftEDU, developed by Teacher Gaming, launched in 2011 as a version of Minecraft enhanced for the classroom.

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Minecraft: Education Edition can assist in teaching all subjects, ranging from math and physics to history and language, Microsoft said.

“There is no limit to what students can learn in the game, and no limit to how the game can extend classroom learning,” the company pointed out. “Minecraft players also develop skills in collaboration, problem solving, communication, digital citizenship, and much more.”

When Microsoft purchased Minecraft studio Mojang, critics expressed pessimism over the purchase, reasoning that it had reached or was near its peak, recalled Roger Entner, principal analyst for Recon Analytics.

Microsoft’s response was to drive the game deeper into education, and that was a smart move, he said.

“Minecraft is already a huge success,” Entner told TechNewsWorld. “Making it more educational is a great thing. It makes it easier for parents to agree with it. We learn better when it’s wrapped into a game. That’s just the fact of it.”

MinecraftEDU already has made it into more than 7,000 classrooms in 40 countries, Microsoft noted.

My 2 cents:

“Digital citizenship”, a term that will be central to the core curriculum of an incoming generation. Odds are our children will grow into a truly frontier-less world where the lines between one’s digital persona and true self are blurred into near non-existence. MinecraftEDU is a symbolic recognition that the future of education lies in collaborative digital spaces as opposed to crowded lecture rooms.

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[microsoft] Microsoft Windows boss says Microsoft has won the PC battle but not the war


When Microsoft first introduced the Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book laptop back in October 2015, the tech giant said it was just trying to show its PC manufacturer partners what the future looks like.

Judging by a CES 2016 event hosted by Microsoft I attended this week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s “Mission Accomplished” time.

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Sure, Microsoft has proven its point with what it calls “two-in-one” devices, he says. The modest but still substantial success of the Microsoft Surface has proven that there was, indeed, a market for powerful, productivity-focused Windows tablets.

Samsung even used CES to announce the Galaxy TabPro S tablet, a superthin Surface-like device that’s also the first Galaxy device to run Windows instead of Google Android.

Yet, Myerson says, there are still plenty of opportunities for “device innovation.”

There is still plenty of room for partners to take platforms like the Microsoft Band 2 fitness tracker, beleaguered Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile smartphone operating system, or even the forthcoming HoloLens holographic goggles, and put their own spins on them.

This actually slots right in with what we’ve heard about Microsoft’s next flagship smartphone…

My 2 cents:

Microsoft’s results still pend heavily to the PC side, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft if is PC only company nor does it want to be that. Microsoft is consolidating its product tree around its commitment and ability to deliver empowering and convenient solutions and resources to those who buy in to the budding Microsoft ecosystem with Windows 10 and Azure at its beating heart. Microsoft’s success with the Surface was proof that it can innovate where it dominates, now comes the time to prove that Microsoft under Satya’s command can play a central role in brand new segments (VR) and segments where it isn’t the leader (smartphones); success in those fronts will confirm Microsoft’s return to glory.

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[microsoft] Microsoft in the Age of Satya Nadella


Over the past five years, Kipman and a team of Microsoft engineers, designers, and researchers have toiled in this windowless space to create a top-secret product that might be the company’s most ambitious since the 2010 release of the motion-sensing gaming device Kinect: an augmented reality headset codenamed Project HoloLens. The device—a kind of face-computer that looks like a pair of space-age sunglasses—is a bit like the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. But while the Rift immerses its wearers in a completely digital environment, Project HoloLens weaves digital elements into the real world—a magical merging of the virtual and physical.

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Microsoft then…
Microsoft has had no problem with the outer circles. It has combined vision with breathtaking engineering to create a whole bunch of amazing prototypes. But they rarely make it to market. That’s because, over the past two decades, its culture has grown competitive and insular, more consumed with getting and protecting an edge than pushing into riskier new businesses. People were motivated to produce things they knew their managers would like, rather than take risks on new ideas that might fail. The company’s money-minting core offerings, Windows and Office, sucked up talent and attention while newer ideas got overlooked.
“In a mobile first, cloud first world, Microsoft missed the first and came late in the latter…”
Though Microsoft makes a lot of money—sales revenue jumped almost 12 percent to $86 billion last year—its core business is declining, a dynamic that was set in motion more than a decade ago, when nearly every enterprise owned and ran Windows-powered PCs and servers.
Microsoft’s fall stems from its attempts to lock users into its products by refusing to work with competitors. Lost in the hubris that can come with market dominance, the company launched a series of me-too hardware products, figuring loyalists would embrace them (Zune, Surface, Kin, etc.).
Consumers turned to better-designed devices that were plugged into other software ecosystems where Microsoft had no stake, rendering the company irrelevant. Meanwhile processing increasingly happened in the cloud, and businesses rented the software they used. Users began to shift more of their work to mobile devices, most of them powered by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
“Silicon Valley wisdom says: big companies can’t reinvent themselves…”
Many have attempted to engineer comebacks, and the industry is teeming with failed empires that have evolved into middling businesses on the decline: BlackBerry. Hewlett-Packard. Yahoo. But Nadella finds inspiration in an example closer to home: Microsoft itself.
Step 1: Garage and tinkerers
As CEO, Nadella has restructured Microsoft to function more like the Silicon Valley companies that have eclipsed it. Nadella has streamlined these teams, cutting 14 percent of the staff. He has eschewed Microsoft’s traditional R&D cycle, in which products went through a testing phase after development, in favor of a fast-moving process in which these steps happen in tandem. To foster experimentation, the company opened Garage—a 32-chapter group of in-house tinkerers—to the public so outsiders could test Microsoft’s ideas.
Step 2: Cross-thinking and Developing
Nadella also revised Microsoft’s approach to research and development. The company has long spent upwards of 11 percent of revenue on this area, and it has had a reputation for investing in the type of blue-sky undertakings that may not see a commercial outlet. Nadella has pushed researchers to collaborate much more closely with engineers in other departments to help them get products out faster. The release of Microsoft’s Skype Translator, which translates multilingual conversations in real time, is an early success. Nadella calls Skype Translator “a moment of truth” because it required groups of people to work across divisions, combining features from the Skype folks, the Azure cloud-computing team, and the Office teams.
Step 3: Breaking down barriers
His predecessor, Steve Ballmer, described Microsoft as a devices and services company. Nadella has scrapped that, casting it instead as a company capable of working across any platform—even those controlled by competitors—to help people be more productive. He has made Office software available on Apple- and Google-powered tablets and phones and made Windows free to manufacturers of devices smaller than 9 inches. He has forged new partnerships with companies Microsoft once considered enemies and spent time with startups to learn how innovative business models work. And he paid $2.5 billion for Minecraft maker Mojang, so that a new generation will grow up on Microsoft’s software.
“HoloLens is about more than virtual reality…”

Project HoloLens is by far the boldest—and riskiest—move of the Nadella era. It’s not another me-too product but a truly unique experience. It’s also the kind of project that few besides Microsoft would undertake—a lavish, multiyear effort that builds on lots of in-house research, all in service of extending the reach of Windows. Nadella believes that Project HoloLens is nothing less than the emergence of the next computing interface, saying, “It’s like the first time you used Excel on a PC with a mouse and a keyboard.”

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[linkedin] Is LinkedIn Ready To Face Competition?


LinkedIn could face intense competition from “Facebook at Work”, which was launched in beta version in the beginning of this year and might be rolled out by the end of 2015, and other new entrants such as Connectifier. While currently LinkedIn competes with other local players such as Xing in Germany and Viadeo in France, given its nearly 400 million strong user base and global presence (spread across 200+ countries), it does not face a serious threat from these local players. However, Facebook@Work and innovative product offerings by smaller start- ups could have the potential to grab a piece of LinkedIn’s pie.

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Although Facebook is banned at several workplaces, the professional version, if separated from its social counterpart, has the potential to become highly popular. If successful, it might be easier for Facebook@Work to surpass LinkedIn’s user base. While Facebook at Work will allow users to connect with professional contacts, its recruiting features are not known. Currently LinkedIn is the most popular social recruiting website.

Connectifier, is using artificial intelligence and a powerful search software that can search across sources to build several online profiles to find the right candidate. Connectifier has the capability to crawl across various social media sites to build the most current profile of a person, thus resolving stale data issues faced by LinkedIn. Both Connectifier and LinkedIn have a similar number of people in their databases but Connectifier claims to have 30 percent more data points per person

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[microsoft] Microsoft Says PowerApps Will Solve Mobile Development Woes


Microsoft on Monday announced PowerApps, software that aims to make it easier to build or connect mobile business applications using Microsoft Azure’s cloud as the back end. This was a badly kept secret—word of PowerApps leaked last spring and again more recently.

This is another example of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s “mobile-first, cloud-first” directive. PowerApps includes an array of Azure-based services for “employee-facing apps” like expense accounts, human resources management, employee benefits, etc. They will also serve as connective tissue to link new apps to applications that already run in-house.

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In theory, non-techies can use PowerApps to create applications that run on any device (i.e. not just Windows phones) and paint them with a “Microsoft Office-like experience,” according to a blog post by Bill Staples, Microsoft corporate vice president for application platform.

In theory, templates will help developers and novices alike get going fast, and a visual tool will help them automate the workflow without having to write code. Clearly, Microsoft has its eye on both non-techies and skilled in-house developers as potential users.

PowerApps is “basically coding for non coders. Democratizing apps creation for normal peeps. Think Salesforce Lightning,” said Ray Wang, chief executive and founder of Constellation Research.

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