Satya Nadella on “tech intensity” at Microsoft’s huge gathering of business leaders, ready to envision the future

September 25, 2018

Microsoft is a huge organisation. Not just in terms of revenues, products or employees, but in the brand’s vast reach across the planet. It’s almost 40 years since Bill Gates set out a vision of “a computer on every desk and in every home.” Today, computing permeates every aspect of our lives, and Microsoft’s software touches almost every one of us as individuals, but also as the intelligence behind so many of the brands we buy, and the organisations who serve us every day.

Satya Nadella is the inspiring driving force of a new Microsoft. Not one of those dinosaurs of the early computer age (remember companies like Atari, Compuserve, HP, wang and many more) but as a thought-leading business of the next technological age. Yes Microsoft still takes huge sums in license fees for Windows, Cloud, Azure, Dynamics and much more. But it is the next generation of tech that Microsoft really leads in terms of thinking.

Artificial intelligence is everywhere in Microsoft’s narrative. Not just as a sales priority, but as a genuine way in which it can enable businesses to transform themselves and their markets in dramatic, even unimaginable ways.

In Orlando today, Nadella brought 30,000 of his followers together, mostly business customers as well as key staff, for their annual look at the future. Microsoft Envision is for business leaders, talking business growth and “digital” transformation, whilst Microsoft Ignite is for technologists, talking tech. It’s a hugely impressive event, and investment, in its customers. Indeed Microsoft has become a truly open business in recent years, for example today announcing a big collaboration with Adobe and SAP (unimaginable a few years ago) to “give customers back the ownership of their data”.

Nadella has also brought a real humanity to the technology-minded business. A focus on ethics, on privacy and equality, is clearly a passion. Today in Orlando he went even further announcing a new initiative “AI for Humanitarian Action” which works with governments and NGOs to track and predict likely events such as hurricanes and famines.

Tech Intensity

At the heart of Nadella’s keynote was his new concept, a new buzzword for today’s world … “tech intensity” … He described it as a fusion of cultural mindset and business processes that rewards the development and propagation of digital capabilities that create end-to-end digital feedback loops, tear down data silos and unleash information flows to trigger insights and  predictions, automated workflows and intelligent services.

Microsoft’s new strategic narrative brings together some key themes that it has been shaping over the past 12-18 months, centered around a calling that in a world where computing is rapidly becoming ubiquitous, industry leaders must rethink every aspect of their business, for how digital can enable it better.

  • Each year, about 10 billion new microcontroller-equipped devices are plugged into the global economy—which companies will lead the way in weaving all those intelligent devices into highly intelligent and optimized feedback loops?
  • Nadella says the world is becoming one giant computer—which businesses will be best positioned to take full advantage of that massive scale and connectedness?
  • More than 2 billion “first-line workers” can become active users of this ubiquitous computing in untraditional ways that new technologies are now making possible, unlocking new opportunities for innovation and productivity;
  • Nadella recently said that data from its LinkedIn subsidiary shows that as fast as tech companies are pursuing and recruiting developers, non-tech companies are hiring developers at an even faster rate and in larger numbers; and
  • Microsoft believes it’s ideally positioned to take a leading role in this emerging world of “tech intensity” and ubiquitous computing by offering a complete fabric supporting this new model: hybrid architecture, Azure, Azure Stack, Azure IoT Edge, Azure Sphere and more.

At today’s conference, Nadella used his keynote address to highlight some fantastic stories of innovation from companies (mostly, interestingly in Europe, where the Microsoft brand seems strongest), ranging across multiple industries, with the common denominator being their radical embracement of digital technology, digital processes and business models to create entirely new types of competitive advantage.

The customer innovations—in food processing, oil exploration, smart buildings, mixed-reality retail experiences and more — highlighted by Nadella are built around AI, IoT, blockchain, Dynamics 365, mixed reality, Azure Digital Twins, Azure Sphere, and insights gleaned from quantum-computing research.

Here’s an overview of the nine digital innovations showcased:

  • BMW: AI, Azure, Cortana, Office 365 to help create personalized and digital brand experiences. BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA) is built on top of Microsoft’s Azure cloud and conversational technologies, and the company expects to add more assistants with specific functionality for drivers. The BMW assistant feature will be available starting in March of 2019 in 23 languages and markets.
  • Buhler: AI, blockchain and Azure to to cut food waste and boost safety.Buhler, which processes almost two-thirds of the world’s grain and maize, has created an AI-enabled digital-sorting machine connected with an IoT platform to identify harmful toxins on grains and remove those grains from the food flow. The recent addition of blockchain technology allows companies up and down the food chain to ensure the grains entering the market are safe “from field to fork.”
  • CBRE: IoT and Azure Digital Twins to improve utility and energy-efficiency of office buildings. The largest commercial real estate services firm in the world, CBRE is pairing IoT sensors with Azure Digital Twins technology to optimize energy usage and offer real-time views into the availability of specialized office space and equipment.
  • Coca-Cola: heavy emphasis on security and threat protection as cornerstones of digital transformation.With 770,000 employees in more than 200 countries, Coca-Cola’s ongoing efforts to engage customers more intimately and drive new revenue growth include the deployment of sweeping new security initiatives as the company simplifies its IT operations and looks to move 100 percent of IT operations to the cloud.
  • Eli Lilly: Microsoft 365 Enterprise to accelerate global collaboration and innovation. With the development of new pharmaceuticals now decentralized across not only Eli Lilly’s research team but also a global network of physicians, medical researchers and healthcare organizations, Lilly created a new set of collaborative tools to support that new innovation network.
  • E.ON: Azure Sphere and intelligent edge to offer personalized home-energy management. One of the world’s largest suppliers of electricity, E.ON is developing new ways to engage with consumers and offer them digital tools to manage a wide range of connected devices—from intelligent refrigerators to solar panels and thermostats.
  • H&M: AI and Dynamics 365 to help re-imagine the shopping experience. The world’s second-largest fashion retailer—with almost 5,000 stores—is using a range of intelligent technologies such as an AI-based “Magic Mirror” that can identify people who gaze into the mirror and then offer those consumers style advice and discounts within H&M’s flagship store in New York City.
  • Royal Dutch Shell: AI and Azure upstream at drilling sites all the way downstream to gas stations. “Digital technologies are core to our strategy to strengthen our position as a leading energy company,” said Royal Dutch Shell executive vice president for technology and CTO Yuri Sebregts in a press release late last week. “Our collaboration with Microsoft gives us a solid digital platform to make our core business more effective and efficient and supports our ambition to provide more and cleaner energy solutions through technology.”
  • ZF: mixed reality via Dynamics 365 to push digital insights to first-line workers. German car-parts maker ZF is an early adopter of mixed-reality tools to help its workers gain critical new insights to boost productivity and safety among a category of workers that Microsoft believes holds enormous potential for harnessing digital technology in untraditional ways.

Download Peter Fisk’s keynote today at Microsoft Envision : Be the Gamechanger

Read about Satya Nadella’s vision for the future of Microsoft: Hit Refresh

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