Now Microsoft knows what it has to do - but can it make it happen?

Summary:Satya Nadella has built a confident and believable strategy for Microsoft. The next step is to deliver on it.

Satya Nadella has only been CEO of Microsoft for six months , but his impact has already been widely felt.

His comments during Microsoft's Q4 earnings call last week gave some of the clearest explanations yet of how he has sharpened the company's focus, giving it a more confident strategy for a more complicated world.

Alongside the by now well-practiced 'mobile-first, cloud-first' slogan, Windows remains the core for Microsoft under Nadella (hence its recent decision to say goodbye to Nokia's Android handsets ), but it's a core that's being approached in a pragmatic fashion (hence the launch of Office on the iPad ).

On the earnings call, Nadella talked about the drive to reduce some of the complexity and overlap in its Windows engineering efforts , sparking misplaced excitement over what was thought to be a new OS move, but was really an initiative that's been going on for quite some time .

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What does this mean for the future of the devices and services company?

But that wasn't the only important internal rethink that's going on — his comments about Microsoft's approach to "dual-use" technology were interesting too.

"Everything we do starts with digital work and life experiences to delight dual-users – these are users who use technology both at work and in their personal lives. This is how we re-invent productivity," he said, noting that this means product teams for OneDrive and OneDrive for business, Outlook and Exchange and Skype and Lync are one team all focused on these dual-user scenarios.

He went on to clarify this a little later by saying: "When I think about productivity it doesn't separate out what I use as a tool for communication with my family and what I use to collaborate at work."

Now that might be the case for him, but it's not the case for most people. While the world of work remains for the most part solidly Microsoft, the consumer world is far more fragmented. When workers switch off their Windows PC they may well pick up an Android tablet or an iPhone instead.

Microsoft's challenge is persuading people to stick with Windows outside of the nine to five, because providing a better consumer offering is an important component of Microsoft's enterprise strategy in the long term.

Historically, that's something it's had mixed results with. Windows Phone is finding it hard to make progress in the mobile market, and is still a long way behind iOS and Android. Windows tablets have been underwhelming and it's still very early days for Microsoft's own Surface line.

Price is a big factor for consumers and Microsoft seems to understand that now — Nadella highlighted that Windows and Windows Phone licences are free for OEMs building a device under nine inches, and there's a cheap Windows licence for manufacturers who use Bing.

This, plus the lower hardware spec Microsoft requires of its manufacturers, means there could be a bumper crop of cheap Windows hardware by Christmas, he said: "This holiday season I think you'll see a lot of value notebooks. You'll see clamshells."

Whether these new devices can ignite consumer interest will be important. Nadella understands how the consumer and the business markets fit together for Microsoft. Much now depends on turning that strategy into reality.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic, and has been writing about technology, business and culture for more than a decade. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.

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