Foley on Microsoft

5 Microsoft Highlights in 2017 that Fell Under the Radar

In no particular order, I'm going to note the most-overlooked happenings from 2017.

Instead of rehashing the top headline-getters in the Microsoft world, I'm going to note the five most-overlooked happenings from 2017. In no particular order, here are my picks:

1. Microsoft's massive sales reorg and resulting layoffs of thousands of employees on the eve of its annual worldwide partner conference continues to weigh on the troops. That event was well publicized. But people inside and outside the company tell me there's still considerable uncertainty -- one called it "chaos" -- in the sales and partner ranks. Given Microsoft's strong Q1 FY18 earnings, the company is still finding ways to sell. But Microsoft's attempts to move to a more technical and cloud-savvy sales organization are still going through growing pains.

2. It's the "growth mindset" way or the highway. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has extolled the virtues of the growth mindset -- the idea of being a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all -- for the past couple of years. This year, we hit peak growth mindset, just around the time Nadella's book "Hit Refresh" hit the stands.

After reading "Hit Refresh," I decided I'd likely be tossed from the company if I were a 'Softie, guilty as charged with having a fixed mindset. I definitely favor more inclusivity and diversity, but I'm not sure I'm rah-rah enough about "empowering every person on the planet to achieve more" to pass muster. And I don't think I'm alone. I've seen several public-facing employees go from genuine to growth-mindset cheerleaders recently. Where's that competitive, combative spirit? It's not in vogue at Microsoft any more.

3. Windows as a Service (WaaS) is more about the service than about new Windows features. After a couple of years, Microsoft finally seems to be getting in the groove with its WaaS strategy. But while Microsoft watchers continue to obsess over new features (most of which are quite minor, to be honest) in the various feature builds of Windows 10, the real story is the servicing part of the equation.

Microsoft has simplified its explana­tion of how Windows 10 servicing works. Patching and updating problems still happen, as evidenced by the recent blue-screen-of-death issues around Microsoft pushing both delta/cumulative updates, which some unhappy users applied simultaneously. But it's the updating part of WaaS, with Microsoft's ultimate goal of having more users on the same versions of Windows, thus reducing its headaches of keeping things secure and up-to-date across many device types. That's the true barometer of success of Microsoft's WaaS world.

4. Bundling, bundling, bundling. In a column last year, I noted Microsoft's surge in offering big software and services bundles. But it wasn't until this year's Microsoft 365 launch that it became truly clear how much the company is betting on bundling. Just as Microsoft is moving to get all of its hardware under a common Microsoft brand, the company is doing the same on the software side. The company is pushing Microsoft 365 -- a combination of Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security -- as the best value for its software and services. Officials are now talking up Microsoft 365-powered devices, not Windows-powered ones.

5. Customer wins equal partnerships. To me, "digital transformation" takes top prize for the most overused and meaningless buzzword of 2017. But other related oddities are creeping into the Microsoft vernacular, as well. Lately, Microsoft is touting its customer wins as "partnerships." I consider a partnership to be between two vendors. Sometimes, those vendors also happen to be customers, such as Adobe, which has designated Microsoft as its "preferred" cloud vendor. But this trend toward referring to paying end user/business customers as partners strikes me as inauthentic. Maybe it's Microsoft's change in accounting, where it now measures product usage rather than unit/dollar sales, as the key metric for compensating its sales folk figures. Beyond that: Shrug.

What Microsoft-related happenings do you think fell under the radar? Please share. And thanks for reading for another year!

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She's the author of "Microsoft 2.0" (John Wiley & Sons, 2008), which examines what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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