Redmond View

The Year Microsoft Built Its New Foundation

What a difference a year has made for Microsoft.

It's rare I use the word "transformative," a buzzword we tech journalists loathe, but it's hard to avoid saying that it describes the year through which Microsoft has gone.

Consider the outlook a year ago: Uncertainty reigned as rumors swirled that Ford CEO Alan Mulally was the frontrunner to replace the retiring Steve Ballmer.

What a difference a year makes. Mulally did retire from Ford but he's now ironically on the Google board of directors. The Microsoft decision to tap Satya Nadella as CEO has proven the critics wrong who were opposed to an insider getting the nod, fearing it would be impossible to change the culture at Microsoft.

It's impossible to turn a big ship around on the fly but it's safe to say in 2014 Nadella has established a new foundation for Microsoft. Most notably, Nadella ensured Windows was no longer the Microsoft cash cow by shifting it from the platform to a platform. Microsoft now acknowledges iOS, Android and Linux as equal citizens in the end-user and IT infrastructure picture. That change came into view weeks after Nadella took over when he enthusiastically opened the floodgates for multiplatform support for Office with the launch of a version for the iPad. Since then Microsoft has extended support for iOS and Android on Office and in numerous other ways including making editing and key features in Office 365 free for iOS and Android consumer use and for organizations through its new Enterprise Mobility Suite licensing.

The new "platforms and productivity" mantra Nadella started espousing started taking full shape when Microsoft agreed to support Docker containers. It was a critical yet once unthinkable move that will pave the way for Windows Server and the Microsoft Azure cloud to move into the next wave of computing, rather than risk it evolving into legacy platforms.

In every presentation and briefing company execs deliver these days it's clear Microsoft has a new attitude and has changed the way it does business within the IT and open source communities. Columnist Mary Jo Foley picks her five biggest Microsoft changes of 2014. Overall, Nadella has led Microsoft to lay a strong new foundation, but now the challenge is to build on it.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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