Microsoft CEO Nadella talks up software (again)

Microsoft CEO Nadella talks up software (again)

Summary: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off a new Skype Translator demo in his latest public appearance. But he talked about a lot more than just the coming beta.


Kicking off the May 27 at the Recode.Net Code Conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had a lot to say (and not to say).


He artfully ducked questions on whether he initially was in favor of Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's handset business. (Rumor has it he was not.) He sidestepped questions about how and why Microsoft missed the mobile wave. He skillfully avoided talking much about Microsoft competitors Google and Yahoo. And he plain-out ignored questions about how often he lunches with Microsoft Founder and now tech advisor Bill Gates. (Yay, Nadella!)

The showpiece of Nadella's hour-plus appearance at the first Code Conference was a demonstration of Skype Translator, a real-time translation service which Microsoft officials said will debut in beta form later this year. (Update: It looks like Skype Translator will first debut in limited beta form for Windows 8 users later this year.)

Skype Translator isn't brand-new. Microsoft execs have been demonstrating this kind of translation for more than two years. (Update: In fact, in a blog post, Microsoft officials said Skype Translator is the result of "years" of work and, most recently, collaboration between the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams.) Microsoft researchers showed off real-time video translation two years ago. Microsoft made available in 2012 a "Skype Translate" product that provided text (not video) translation.

Update No. 3: The Skype Translator app Microsoft demonstrated today is brand-new, even though previous incarnations have existed, a spokesperson pointed out, for the record. "What is net new with Skype Translator is that this will enable two way communication and will deliver the platform to do that -- via Skype and video," the spokesperson added.

While the new Skype Translator demo was all well and good, I found Nadella's remarks and responses on other questions to be more interesting. To keep up with his comments, I relied on three live blogs (from The Verge, GigaOm and Recode), given Nadella's Code Conference remarks were not live streamed.

To me, the key piece of Nadella's presentation involved a single, loaded word: Software. He reiterated that Microsoft's goal these days is to get its software on all devices, not just those from Microsoft or those running Windows. That's a big deal. 

"We're a software company at the end of the day," said the CEO of the self-proclaimed devices and services vendor.

And it's not the first time Nadella has made a point of highlighting Microsoft's software prowess. It's interesting -- and smart -- in my opinion, that Nadella continues to beat the software drum.

What else of note did Nadella say tonight? He said "I have no intent on doing anything different on Xbox than we are doing today." (That was seemingly in response to recent wonderings about recent confusing comments by Gates on Microsoft possibly selling off Xbox.)

Nadella also stated publicly that Microsoft has "no plans" to sell its search business to Yahoo -- regardless of what Yahoo might want Microsoft to do.

Nadella also said he thinks we're in a "post post-PC world." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but there you have it.

Sadly, no one asked Nadella my question of the day: Could you show us the Surface Mini? I have no idea what he would have said/done in response, but it might have been interesting.


Topics: Leadership, Emerging Tech, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Microsoft CEO Nadella talks up software (again)

    The man may not have said a whole lot but when he did speak you can tell that he knows what direction he wants to take Microsoft. Microsoft's language software is really starting to mature. I remember years ago when they were just starting out with it and now look how far they have come. Curious to see what they do with it in the future since they now have translation, Cortana, built into Microsoft Windows. A lot of good uses.
  • What does the phrase "post post PC-world" mean?

    Boy, I wish I had a good "zinger" for that question! Grin.

    But let's use the logic of "what goes around, comes around" and apply it to the "post post PC-world" term. (And I'll throw a bone to Loverock.Davidson with this one)

    Obviously, the term means that the world of the mobile cloud centric computing paradigm is over and we have arrived "full circle" (boy, am I using the cliche's here) and we are now back to beige and black "huge" boxes sitting on desktops running stand alone, isolated, Windows based software applications. And, of course, printers! We are using printers again. Sheets of paper all over the place.

    Let the good times role. Grin.
    • i wonder

      If the post post pc era is in terms of software... If you think about it the PC era was defined by machines that ran local applications that may or may not have connected to server based resources that were locally (privately) hosted.

      Then came the era of mobile and websites and everything was about connecting to web based applications (think SharePoint, Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, etc.)

      Now we are moving into an era defined by machines that run local apps which may or may not connect to server resources hosted in the cloud (think the mail app on your PC, iPhone, Windows Phone etc, Facebook Windows 8 app and mobile apps, local office installs that connect to Office365, and so on).

      So really we have moved post post PC and its once again about locally installed software rather than web based software (which is still there but as a backup for a local app not being available)
      • Digital Ink

        The post PC era was the tablet with touch. I think the post post PC era is Digital Ink. Are you ready to get rid of your 3 pound portfolio filled with paper? I think of it not as a tablet but more of a notepad.

        Another component is second generation clouds. It is not only storage. It is not only database searches. The next generation will do more about computational power. Tablets can have less memory (both hard drives and ram), less powerful processors (but not crippled either), and consume less power for longer battery life. The next generation will make a notepad feel more like a desk top for most users.
  • Post post PC...

    Hardware is becoming irrelevant (meaning, whether you choose high-end or low-end, it still runs the same software... or soon will).

    Software is king. And Microsoft is the king of software.
  • Skype

    I am sorry but skype has and is crap sorry it locks up or kicks you off when than 2 people are taking so yes it is crap and it is so slow yes it is crap
    • sorry to hear that

      In 4 years of using Skype across PCs and mobiles and both landline and mobile broadband connections I've never had a dropout and only had slow downs when the mobile connection was pre 3G.
    • No idea what you're talking about.

      I've been using Skype for a while now, and I've never run into any of your problems.

      I regularly engage in +4 people voice-chats, so I think I'd notice if something like that were happening.

      Maybe your computer was broken?
    • Maybe computer illiterate?

      when you've graduated English, come back and try again
  • I'm typing this from a PC

    They released a PC last week called the Surface.
    Android devices and tablets are PCs. PC's are 'Personal' Computers.

    A smart phone and tablet is probably more personal than any computing device this century. MJ, I couldn't imagine you with that IBM PC you bought in the 80s in your bed. The fact that I can wake up in bed take up my smartphone beside my pillow and launch Facebook, check email, read the news, listen/download music, watch a few YouTube videos without getting up and sitting in front of my home PC, is just amazing.
  • Succeeding!

    Apparently, Nadella said, “competition is not killing us…it’s our own ability to have an idea and …make that happen.”

    If so, Microsoft is ready to get back in the game. I'd insist that the ideas be big enough and far-reaching enough to be worthy of the world's largest seller of software.

    So, Skype Translate solves a problem that's about #57 at most, on the world's needs, but enough languages, and good enough implementations would make for a great start.

    Still, the real issue is “where do we create capability or service that the world wants and isn't getting elsewhere? Not “what can we offer in the tablet marketplace that Apple defines so totally that it'd take us YEARS to build up a vision that competes and THEN adds value?”
    • More Bloat.

      We can safely assume that 50% of the population will never, ever use the translator gizmo on Skype - indeed, the figure may be much higher - and yet everyone who uses skype will have the facility built in.

      Microsoft really, really needs to get out of the 1990s: build these things as apps / extensions / add-ons, not as code bloat. You'd have to live to 999 years to use every function on Word, too.

      Microsoft Just Don't Get It.
  • IMHO...

    The Post-Post-PC Era comment means that we moved away from full PCs to more mobile touch centric devices but it has taken time for the hardware to catch up to allow these devices to become powerful enough to run full application suites while remaining thin, light, and power sipping.

    Could also note the emergence of the ChromeBook, which has the form factor of a "PC Era" PC but is a mobile thin device that is cloud centric.
    Rann Xeroxx
  • Nadella talks

    well it sounds like another blah blah blah session...nothing was talked about what people really want to here..1, the next widows update and what will be in it and windows 9 progress and the new surface mini pro..sounds like that isn't going to happen to me.
  • Post post PC

    PC = MS world
    post PC = a world w/o MS (in anti-microsoftian terminology)
    post post PC = MS is back
  • Squirms like a squirrel, stings like a sheep ..

    "He artfully ducked questions
    He sidestepped questions
    He skillfully avoided talking much about
    And he plain-out ignored questions
    (Yay, Nadella!)"

    That's our Mary; out the guy as a schmuck who won't answer a straight question, and make a hero of him.
  • post apple

    a more accurate statement. They neither dominate phone ecosystems, tablet ecosystems, cloud ecosystems, and certainly not PC ecosystems.

    basically, it is a google/MSFT world, with apple being #2 to either one across all categories. Compare that to the i-device era where apple dominated the conversation. Just because it isn't windows which apple doesn't take a #2 spot in mobile, it doesn't make it any less of a loss for apple.

    we truly live in the post apple world.
    • A post OS defined World

      I think more importantly, the World is not so much about the OS, but the device and what it does. We use browsers not operating systems. We have web based apps not OS specific software.
      Its clear closed ecosystems like Apple and Microsoft have to open up to a more non OS specific system. Running stuff like iTunes, Office, on a web based app then on OS format. Google's system Chrome OS has touched on this but their insistence on using only their products is a big limitation. I can see a time when the OS will be insignificant on a device.
  • Windows won't dominate forever

    I think its clear that Windows won't dominate all platforms ever. Their mobile devices are still in the tank, the Surface is not so well liked as to create much of a stir. Windows 8 has set back PC's to a worse point then when Vista was introduced. Even the Xbox one of Microsoft's successes has been trumped by PS 4 because Microsoft felt the need to push Kinect onto everyone. None of this was of Nedella's doing but it does give credence that he has some issues to deal with. For the first time in Windows life has their not only been disgruntled users, but also good alternatives to Windows for them. This should really be of a concern for Microsoft. Because as users of tech begin to realize more and more that alternatives exist other then Windows. Microsoft becomes less and less relevant.
  • Kill off Devices and concentrate on "Software and Services"

    Software is the only future, whether it be in the cloud on on end devices. There is really little long term future in hardware devices for Microsoft Microsoft used to be great at Software, and still is. But casual commentators, who do not understand Enterprose and cloud servcies, sem to think that Google and Apple have the advantage.

    It is not the software which is kiling Microsoft it is their lack of confidnece in promoting and marketting their own Software and Services in a meaningful way to consumers and Enterprise.