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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

September 15, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Nadella talks ‘Minecraft,’ mobile and more at Seattle Chamber event

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made his big civic appearance debut Monday on the same day the company announced it was buying “Minecraft” maker Mojang for $2.5 billion — Nadella’s first major acquisition since he became CEO in February.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

“We’re really excited about being the stewards of the community of ‘Minecraft,’ ” Nadella told the crowd of about 1,100 people at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual meeting/luncheon.

Nadella spoke briefly of the success of “Minecraft,” which has more than 100 million downloads on PCs and is the top paid app on the iOS and Android platforms in the U.S.

But “what ‘Minecraft’ represents is more than a game franchise,” Nadella said. “It’s an open-world platform.”

He also spoke of the possibility of getting kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields by playing “Minecraft.”

“It’s the one game parents want their kids to play,” he said.

Nadella’s comments came as part of a “fireside chat” with Seattle Chamber President and CEO Maud Daudon, who noted that Nadella’s appearance was a civic “coming out party” for him.

Their chat touched on a number of different areas, including company culture, Microsoft’s plans in the mobile space, and a couple of more personal topics.

When asked by Daudon how he plans to increase Microsoft’s mobile market share (the company currently has less than 5 percent market share worldwide in smartphones and tablets), Nadella said he wasn’t focused on today’s market share.

“When you define mobile in the marketplace, we don’t think of it by just today’s market share position on a given form factor,” he said. “Devices sizes come and go.”

Rather, he said, the vision for Microsoft is not of the devices as central, but of the individual user as the center of a host of digital memories and productivity experiences accessed through her devices.

And though Microsoft’s share of mobile devices currently is small, “we’re very grounded in the cross-platform world,” said Nadella, referring to services such as Office and Skype, which are on multiple platforms.

And now, he added, laughing, Minecraft will be “on every 8-year-old’s phone.”

Nadella said he was focusing much attention on creating a company culture that “fosters constant renewal and learning.”

Especially in the tech world, he said, if companies are not innovating and changing, they won’t have longevity.

Daudon also asked Nadella what he would say to inspire young people and why he came to Microsoft.

Nadella said of his experiences to date: “It’s pretty surreal.”

Until he was 18, he said, he hadn’t thought much of the world west of Bombay, India. (Nadella was born and grew up in India.)

“And here I am in Seattle,” he said. “In fact, when I showed up in Wisconsin — that was quite a culture shock for a kid who had not seen snow.”

One thing he’s learned, he said, is that “it’s not so much all the plans that you may have, but the choices you make with both the opportunities and challenges that come your way that perhaps shape you.”

He made the choice to come to Microsoft because “I wanted to be part of a team, a company that could change the world” — something he believes Microsoft can still do.

Daudon noted that many of Nadella’s memos that he’s issued in the past few months have been peppered with literary quotes.

“Reading great literature has been a source of inspiration,” Nadella said. “Literature, in fact, captures the essence of what the human condition is.”

Now that his attention span has decreased, he joked, he’s turned to poetry.

He didn’t think many people would notice or make much of his references to literature, but, he noted with a laugh, people were quick to point out when he misquoted Oscar Wilde.

Nadella also said that in the next three weeks, he will be visiting China, Japan, Korea and India.

He didn’t say what was on the agenda for the trip, other than to note that China is “somewhere we’ve been for many, many years. I’m enthusiastic about what opportunity there is to have real impact and business success with it.”

Microsoft is launching its Xbox One console in China Sept. 23 and, earlier this year, became the first multinational company to offer public cloud services in China with the launch there of Microsoft Azure. But in addition to opportunities, there have been challenges.

Chinese government officials are conducting an antitrust investigation of Microsoft — one of several such probes the government has launched against foreign companies. Antitrust authorities there have questions  about compatibility issues related to Windows and Office, as well as Microsoft’s use of verification codes.

It’s unclear whether Nadella will be discussing the investigation with Chinese officials. Microsoft had issued a statement earlier saying Nadella’s trip was planned before the Chinese government investigation began and that it’s committed to complying with China’s laws and addressing the government’s concerns.


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