I arrived at Microsoft’s Fall Analyst Event with modest expectations. I expected to hear about the growing MBS Dynamics business with 400,000 customers. I expected a bit of disarray given the CEO transition and long search. It turned out be an intense day with perspectives from Microsoft executives, partners and customers with a showcase of wide range of products. But the biggest takeaway was a much more coherent set of messages around Microsoft’s wide portfolio.
Microsoft wants to focus on “high value” activities that consumers and business users prioritize. That translates to key words such as “serious fun” and “expression” for consumers and to “customer interactions” and “information insurance” for business users.
And it showcased 7 of its competences to go after satisfying those activities
- Operating System
- High Value Apps
- Cloud Services
- Machine Learning
- Natural UI
- Consumer/Enterprise (comfort with both)
and over the course of the day there were plenty of reminders of how these competences come together.
Many of the presentations were on a Titanium Projector – the CNN “Magic Wall” brought to a conference room and run wirelessly from the presenter’s laptop or tablet courtesy of their acquisition of Perceptive Pixel. There were conversations in English and Mandarin sign language facilitated by Kinect sensors and Microsoft’s growing Unified Communications (including Skype) capabilities. There was a glimpse into Microsoft’s massive Azure data center infrastructure and the exploding user base of Office 365 that can make the claim of the biggest enterprise app in the cloud. There were several working prototypes of just released Surface 2 and OEM tablets with their evolving accessories such as docking stations and detachable backlit keyboards. There was discussion on how acquisitions like Netbreeze and Marketingpilot and internal projects around campaigns and other marketing areas are greatly expanding Microsoft’s CRM footprint. There was a discussion around how Microsoft with its Retail software, with Nokia Lumias and with other functionality developed by partner Avanade resulted in a POS solution in the sky for Delta (see my post here). There were customers discussing vertical extensions developed by Microsoft VARs and mentions of industry solutions developed by Microsoft ISV partners such as MECOMS billing for Utilities by Ferranti Computer Systems and Ellucian CRM solutions for Higher Education.
And there were several sessions under non-disclosure. Microsoft showcased two implementation partners – one a global SI who candidly described the opportunity and challenges in a marketplace as it churns away from previous generation enterprise apps (as he was speaking NetSuite was announcing a SAP BYD “sunset” program and over course of day Microsoft described several replacement CRM customers) . The other, a national partner described the private/public cloud debate he is seeing at customers and adjusting to life as Microsoft increasingly goes direct to customers . There was a panel of customers from multiple industries who described a wide range of capabilities they were using from the Microsoft family.
It was impressive to see the wide range of experiences Microsoft gives its executives. Several of the attendees marveled that Tami Reller, EVP of Marketing had done jobs of both CMO and CFO at the Windows division. Satya Nadella, who provided the Azure update, has previously run R&D for Bing and other online services, and the Dynamics business unit. Kirill Tatarinov who now runs the MBS unit ran the Management and Solutions Division. There was plenty of other executive talent in and out of the room during the day.
Oh and by the way, there were demos of new MBS features and growing systems management tools Microsoft is delivering to those customers.
During the recap session I asked how Microsoft expected to sell “One Microsoft” when there was already market fatigue around single source Red and Blue stacks. Kirill had two answers. Larger multinationals and moving to diversification, but that the sub “Fortune 2000 type company” was struggling with too much vendor fragmentation and actually looking to consolidate.
But the even better answer he had was “We may not always be able to deliver, but I want customers to think of calling Microsoft first anytime they have an opportunity where technology can help”.
Given the wide range of technologies, talent, and partners we saw during the day, that would be a smart call for any customer executive. Microsoft will strive to deliver to all your “high value” activities.