The new era of devices and services

After a busy year of innovation and product releases, Microsoft is making more big bets on five huge technology trends. What are they? How do they affect business? What do they mean for Microsoft?

“We’re not taking time off,” says Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO, as he addresses a room full of CIOs and IT decision-makers in Microsoft’s London office. In 2011, Microsoft invested $9.4 billion in research and development, and $10.1 billion in 2012. The results speak for themselves: a slew of product launches that mark the evolution of the company towards ‘devices and services’.

The company is building more data centres and laying more fibre than any other, a third of the world’s phone traffic goes over Skype and more than 1.5 billion people use Microsoft services every day. But the company is not resting on its laurels: “we’re doubling down across five technology trends.”

Megatrend 1: Cloud

The vast majority of CIOs are already embracing cloud technology. It has the ability to deliver real business and IT change in large enterprises. For example, at TalkTalk Business, 15,000 customers now use a web-based platform to manage their accounts, cutting the company’s call centre costs.

Similarly, the company was able to develop new Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps in just eight weeks thanks to Windows Cloud Services and Azure Mobile Services. “This kind of technology will let us create new products and services, reduce our overheads and protect our existing revenue by reducing churn,” according to Paul Higgins, Director of Marketing, TalkTalk Business.

But cloud’s ability to deliver change depends on more than pay-as-you-go pricing and delivery from the internet. Companies need flexibility to adopt private, public or hybrid clouds and to switch services between them seamlessly. They also need to address security, privacy and data sovereignty issues.

Kevin Turner explains that Microsoft “lets you build the cloud on your terms.” The company has a comprehensive strategy across cloud-based productivity applications (e.g. Office 365), communications (e.g. Skype), database platforms (e.g. SQL Database), infrastructure (e.g. Windows Azure) and management (e.g. Windows Intune). Microsoft has also written EU model clauses into its cloud agreements to address data privacy and sovereignty concerns.

Management is important too. “If you have Active Directory and System Center completely deployed and updated,” explains Mr Turner, “I can give you access to public, private and hybrid clouds with single sign on and single-pane-of-glass management.”

Megatrend 2: Social

“We see a massive trend in enterprise social,” says Mr Turner. Social means more than 2.8 billion tweets a week and a billion Facebook users. It’s about aligning and integrating the efforts of thousands of employees. Organisations that use social technology see a 20-25 percent boost in productivity.

The latest version of SharePoint connects to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and also helps companies create internal social networks, knowledge portals and more.

For example, Tesco uses a cloud-based platform to create a single hub for its 520,000+ employees worldwide. It gives them secure access from anywhere and a single portal that is accessible to everyone. The company deliberately decided to embrace both business and personal uses and so it is home to best practice business discussions and social club bulletin boards.

Megatrend 3: Mobile

We’re moving beyond the first generation of consumerisation, according to Dave Coplin, Microsoft UK’s Chief Envisioning Officer. That was all about devices. Now we’re about to hit ‘consumerisation 2.0’ and it will focus on services.

Mobile devices, which are already ubiquitous in a corporate environment, can be a delivery mechanism for powerful business services. “There’s a huge opportunity to use our Office mobile platform which runs across devices and technology providers,” says Mr Turner. In other words, you can take a document or spreadsheet, edit it on your PC then switch to your tablet or smartphone and pick up where you left off. Seamlessly and with a consistent user interface.

“Your best Office experience will continue to be on Windows but we’ve also made it available across Android and iOS via Office Web Apps,” adds Mr Turner.

In addition, Microsoft provides tools to manage mobile devices of all stripes in a responsible way. With System Center 2012, the IT department can manage iOS and Android devices just as easily as they manage Windows-powered devices.

Megatrend 4: Big data

Big data is another of those industry buzzwords. But the underlying trend is huge: the amount of unstructured data will grow by 80 percent over the next four years and by 2020, we’ll be generating 25 zettabytes of data a year. No wonder that ‘business analytics and reporting’ are CIOs’ top priority for the fourth consecutive year according to the annual Gartner CIO survey.

To deal with this increase in data and successfully exploit it, companies need the right tools. Microsoft has a comprehensive big data approach that promises immersive insight wherever you are, the ability to connect to the world’s data (for example via data markets), and the ability to store, share and manage any amount of data with enterprise-grade security.

Megatrend 5: Touch

From Microsoft’s perspective, touch isn’t confined to phones and tablets. Windows 8 brought it to PC screens. But it also goes beyond that to interactive whiteboards, interactive display monitors, conference room walls and desktops (literally the tops of desks).

Windows 8 reimagines what a PC is. In terms of connectivity, storage, displays and processing power, there will be less and less difference between phones, tablets and PCs. People will use the form factor that is most convenient and Microsoft will deliver a consistent user experience whatever device they choose.

Acceleration and transformation

“Speed trumps perfection in almost every industry today,” concludes Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer. “There’s never been a better time for CIOs to lead transformation and change in business value than right now. And we’re going to work hard at Microsoft to earn your trust and help you achieve that.”

To find more information from the new era of devices and services Enterprise Briefing, please see the #msnew hashtag.

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