The future is killer devices connected to amazing cloud services

The following is a post from Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft.

I’m at the 11th edition of All Things Digital, one of my favorite events. Smart people, interesting interviews on the main stage, great conversations outside the interviews. Tim Cook kicked things off last night, and in keeping with the theme of the event, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher discussed what it means to be in a “Post PC” era. How much do I love this topic 🙂

On one hand, looking around the conference, there were iPads and other tablets as far as the eye could see. On the other hand, (as I noted in a tweet), most of the people around me were using their iPads exactly as they would a laptop – physical keyboard attached, typing away, connected to a network of some kind, creating a document or tweet or blog or article. In that context, it’s hard to distinguish between a tablet and a notebook or laptop. The form factors are different, but let’s be clear, each is a PC.

Later after dinner, a group of us (including Walt) were talking, and I was trying to make the point that we’re getting hung up on semantics in an unnecessary way and probably are more in agreement than not. I actually think the PC is alive and well and thriving, it just comes in tons of different form factors. Many of those form factors are more mobile, and look different from the traditional desktop PC, but the same core idea drives it – personal in nature, used for work and for play, runs applications, connected to a network… etc. No matter what label you put on them, they are personal computing devices. Today, Sheryl Sandberg made a similar point when she noted that she had a computer in her pocket with more power than the computer that brought Apollo to the moon. And of course it was a phone. 🙂

Today, Mary Meeker, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, published her much anticipated Internet Trends Report. As in previous years, the report is packed with data and insights. It really is a must-read for anyone in the technology industry, and it should probably be required reading for many others as well.

Mary’s report doesn’t focus much on Microsoft (frankly, it is mostly about trends more than individual companies), although this chart of the Top 10 Global Internet properties is illuminating. It certainly provides insight into how our online services like Bing and MSN compare with competitors’ services. I wonder how many attendees at the conference would have guessed that Microsoft has the second highest number of unique visitors to its Internet properties, so maybe that’s a perception issue that someone in my position should work on. 🙂 After making my way through the 117-slide report, I come away with one overriding impression: Wow, there’s a LOT of growth opportunities for Microsoft, given the breadth and depth of our devices and services portfolio.

As Mary points out, it’s still early days in the transition to smartphones from lower-end mobile phones. Let’s first start with the fact that there are now more than 7.1 billion people inhabiting our planet. Then, as Mary points out, there are currently 1.5 billion smartphone users, and more than 5 billion mobile phones in use. Admittedly, our great competitors in this market, Apple and Samsung primarily, have earned significant share. But while some want to suggest it’s game over in the smartphone market, Mary’s report makes it clear that it’s about the second inning in a nine-inning game, or about the 15-minute mark in a futbol match. As our recent Windows Phone ad points out, the iPhone and Android aren’t the only options for smartphone purchasers. And as Michael Stroh pointed out on our Windows Phone Blog, this year, the Nokia Lumia 920 with Windows Phone 8 won Engadget’s Smartphone of the Year prize; Windows Phone 8 swept the mobile OS category in PCMAG’s Reader’s Choice Awards; and Gizmodo concluded the Lumia 920’s camera was tops among smartphones, particularly in low light. And that phone and camera just keep getting better and better. Our mobile story gets stronger by the day.

Mary’s report also contained some mind-blowing statistics on mobile media and data uploading trends related to photos, video, sound and data. Those areas are also strengths for us, particularly in partnership with Nokia as we combine their investments in great photos, video, audio with our approach to making it easy to backup and share data of all kinds.

Now, while I love the D Conference, I often find that there can be an odd disconnect between the strongly held perceptions of those who primarily live in the Valley world, and what is happening in the marketplace.

As an example, there has been a lot of conversation here about Apple TV and even Google’s television efforts, but very little said about the market reality – where we have sold more than 76 million Xbox consoles, where we have 48 million active Xbox LIVE members and where 42 percent of Xbox LIVE subscribers in the U.S. are watching an average of an hour of television and movies on their Xbox each day, or more than 30 hours of digitally distributed television and movies a month, or where one industry pundit thinks Steve Jobs’ dream device has arrived, and it’s made by Microsoft. As Farhad’s story documents, just last week, we showed off a pretty sweet device that does some amazing stuff with TV, not to mention being one heck of a gaming console.

The same disconnect exists for the work we’ve done in growing out the Office 365 subscription business, in delivering ever more value with Windows Azure, in bringing together Skype and Lync in interesting ways and so on. That is a lot to be bullish about, as legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr recently noted.

When you strip away all the post-PC rhetoric, maybe we’re all saying the same thing – the future is about killer devices connected to amazing cloud services. That’s the future Microsoft is embracing, and that’s the future that everyone here at the D Conference is excited about.

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