Today, at a small event in San Francisco, Microsoft made attempt to enter an already busy technology news cycle by introducing Office for the iPad and other mobile devices.
To be sure, it’s a piece of software that is seemingly years overdue, and the giant was expected at some point to cave into pressure from its customers — whose rapidly growing arsenal of devices has gone beyond Windows-powered devices. But even beyond the software, and perhaps more importantly, new CEO Satya Nadella signaled what is essentially a sea change at the company that tethered its prized enterprise software to Windows for more than a decade.
“The number-one job is to empower people to be productive, and do more across all devices,” Nadella said. Keyword: all devices — not just devices powered by Windows. He later added, “There is no trade-off, it’s reality for us … What motivates us is the realities of our customers.”
When asked directly by BuzzFeed following the presentation why Nadella felt today was a good time, rather than any time in the iPad’s four years of existence, he essentially reiterated that Microsoft felt “this was the right time … we got it, and we’re excited for feedback from the community.”
The gesture is also a surprising olive branch to the developer community, which has been tethered to Windows along with Office for any sort of connected applications while the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices completely took over the marketplace. Nadella even pointed this out in his presentation, saying, “The key salient point is, the most important developer API we have is Office 365.”
It’s fair to say that — given how long it has taken — this is an event that likely would not have happened with former CEO and salesperson extraordinaire Steve Ballmer in charge. Nadella is an engineer to his core — as evidenced by a few attempts at cracking computer science-related jokes — and his focus is on Microsoft’s products. That, inevitably, could end up shipping fewer copies of Windows, though he said the company is still committed to Windows.
And yet, with Ballmer out of the picture, Microsoft’s stock has actually gone on a huge run, breaking the $40 barrier — a high point for more than a decade — earlier this month.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that there is a new vision and new life within the decades-old company. Now the question remains as to whether this move will spell out the triumphant return or continued decay of Microsoft’s Windows and PC empire.