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Microsoft de-emphasizes Windows, lays out mobile device plans

Microsoft customers awaiting Windows 9 updates didn't hear details at WPC, where the company touted cross-platform support and mobile device plans.

Washington, D.C. – Microsoft continues to move away from a Windows-centric world with cross-platform mobile device support, along with added security and a commitment to devices.  

In fact, Microsoft offered no details here at this week’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) about the next version of Windows other than it is in the works.

Attendees here, many of whom earn their living off of Microsoft's products, overall felt pleased with the strategic change and commitment to supporting platforms other than Windows.

"Microsoft has the amazing ability to come late to the game and speed past [its competitors] in innovation,” said Debbie Murray-John, director of education for ITT Technical Institute, a private technical college based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Microsoft highlighted Office 365 and demonstrated its commitment toward cross-platform technology support by showing Office for iPad and the integration between its services and mobile device management capabilities.

Office 365 brings a $2.5 billion annual revenue run rate, the company said.

Cloud-based Office 365 is a useful platform as the flow of information continues outside the work day, and customers rely on different devices and mobility in various scenarios, said Steve McDonagh, CEO of Foxwarp Ltd., a Microsoft partner focused on the financial industry based in the United Kingdom. 

In the last six months since Satya Nadella became Microsoft's third CEO, the company has continued to hone its message as a mobile and cloud-first company. Late last week, Nadella issued an email to employees stressing it is time to focus on productivity and melding the digital and work life experience.

“We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more,” Nadella said in the email.

Microsoft partners who had been unclear about Microsoft's “devices and services” focus gained clarity, and felt energized by Nadella’s statements.

“I thought it was a cohesive vision,” said Chris Hertz, CEO and founder of New Signature, an IT system integrator based in Washington, D.C.

Microsoft device plans

The company also clarified it will continue to develop mobile devices, including “momentum for Windows Phone,” Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner told attendees here.

“Our goal of moving into first party hardware is to continue to drive and accelerate the ecosystem,” he said. “Bringing productivity across the platform is a key, key part of our strategy….regardless of device type.”

The company acquired Nokia last year and more recently unveiled the Surface Pro 3.

While Microsoft touted its prowess as a first party hardware manufacturer, the Redmond behemoth also played it safe with OEMs. Turner showed the forthcoming Hewlett-Packard Stream notebook PC shipping later this year for $199 and said low-end $99 tablets would be available by the holidays.

“We are going to participate in the low-end,” he said.

Microsoft also promised a more cohesive security offering that pulls together security efforts across the company to focus on detecting, protecting and responding to security issues. It follows the company’s existing strategic efforts around mobile, big data, social and cloud initiatives.

The consumerization of IT allows for people to pick and choose their personal devices, and Microsoft has addressed security issues for the top three platforms, said Peter O’Keefe, general manager and senior director of ITT Technical Institute.

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