The report back from WPC 2015 was Nadella’s oft-repeated mantra—that “mobile-first, cloud-first” is the way forward, not only for Microsoft, but for partners as well. Microsoft’s vision for the future is a more engaged, connected world, and such a future can only be achieved through successful collaboration. The mobile-first, cloud-first strategy has been repeated so many times since Nadella took over as CEO, that is seems worth investigating: what does “mobile-first, cloud-first” mean to Microsoft, and what does this new strategy mean for Microsoft partners?
At a glance, the Microsoft CEO’s vision appears to be a further elucidation of predecessor Steve Ballmer’s “devices and services” slogan, with mobile taking the place of devices and cloud taking the place of services. In many ways, this two-pronged approach is a repeat for Microsoft, but a further analysis of Nadella’s mantra reveals a slightly more nuanced vision for the future.
Mobile—as the Microsoft CEO has clarified in numerous interviews—should be interpreted as mobility, as opposed to mobile phone. Nadella does not aim to limit Microsoft’s device focus; rather, mobile refers to the endpoints (devices) that people use to consume and engage with content and one another. Cloud, meanwhile, takes the place of “services” as it provides the supporting infrastructure that keeps the aforementioned devices connected. But a cloud-first strategy is more pointed than “services” alone. A cloud-first focus means designing products and services that will be delivered from a cloud infrastructure. That has significant implications, as any enterprise looking to migrate legacy systems from on-premise to the cloud can attest. On-premise systems often break down when thousands of miles separate the servers and endpoints, so this focus on the cloud will have greater repercussions than the focus on services did.
Ultimately, for partners, the Microsoft focus on the cloud will be fruitful as cloud models become increasingly important in the overall architecture of modern technology. Microsoft is already in possession of a number of powerful cloud services such as the consumer-facing Outlook.com, as well as cloud-based business models like Office 365, and the large-scale enterprise cloud infrastructure system, Azure. The message to Microsoft partners is that they are going to be increasingly supported in their efforts to make the transition into selling the cloud, while partners already delivering cloud-based solutions will notice the impact of Microsoft’s continual support. Although the transition period may be stressful for some, the effort will be paid in full as Microsoft appears to have a solid grasp on what customers want in this rapidly developing world.
It is hard not to have faith in Nadella’s vision, sci-fi as it may seem with his goal of “ubiquitous computing” and “ambient intelligence.” In spite of the disruptive nature of the cloud, it is clear that Microsoft is committed to the intersection between cloud and mobile, to “being able to excel everywhere our customers are.” It is only through the possibilities facilitated by the cloud that the world can continue to become ever more interconnected, offering countless opportunities for collaboration and engagement across space and devices.