Microsoft CEO Nadella talks up software (again)

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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.


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