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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.

December 31, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Microsoft’s cloud ambitions could outweigh Windows 10

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a cloud press event in October. (Photo by Microsoft)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a cloud-focused press event in October. (Photo: Microsoft)

Microsoft’s story of 2014?

Candidates abound. Satya Nadella’s appointment as Microsoft’s third chief executive. Sealing the $7.5 billion Nokia deal, Microsoft’s second-biggest acquisition (closely followed by its largest-ever layoff). The company’s new-found love for partnering with competitors.

I took a look at a few of those themes in today’s paper. But based on what executives want to talk about, Microsoft’s story of the year is clear: the pivot to the cloud.

Cloud computing, or using the web to access data and software rather than a nearby PC or server, was the topic raised most by executives and analysts on the conference calls held in 2014 after Microsoft reported quarterly earnings, garnering 178 mentions. That’s more than both Windows and Office. It also outweighs the combined discussion of PCs — the device that catapulted Microsoft from start-up to behemoth — Xbox gaming console and Surface tablet. 

Here’s a tally of the number of mentions of key words during the calls:

Term Q2 2014 Q3 2014 Q4 2014 Q1 2015 Full Year
Cloud 30 42 49 57 178
Windows 30 35 40 29 134
Office 32 31 37 32 132
Azure 4 9 20 25 58
Xbox 18 7 9 10 44
PC 15 10 5 11 41
Surface 15 2 13 7 37

Word counts in calls choreographed to please Wall Street don’t give the complete picture of a company, sure. But in this case, the cloud emphasis highlights a huge shift in what executives are touting to one of their more demanding constituencies.

Microsoft’s cloud, after years of investment, has been growing by leaps and bounds. Expectations are sky-high that the growth will continue.

A lot of the focus on Microsoft next year will shift to the rollout of the Windows 10 operating system, the latest effort to shore up its operating system after the struggles of Windows 8.

But if Microsoft gets the cloud right, Windows 10 may not be a make-or-break moment for the company.

When Steve Ballmer took the helm in 2000, Windows powered the vast majority of the personal computing devices worldwide. That market share has plunged as people bought smartphones and tablets built by Google, Apple and other companies. Microsoft has thrown billions of dollars at the problem without a lot to show for it.

The cloud doesn’t fix Microsoft’s reduced share of the global operating system market, but it’s a shot at redemption of sorts.

Microsoft’s dream is to turn its Azure cloud computing platform into the essential plumbing behind the internet. If Microsoft can make Azure the tool companies companies use to run their web-based software, store their files, and design their programs, then the fact that people are primarily accessing those programs on Android or iOS mobile devices ceases to be quite so large a threat.

That’s a story we’ll be following in 2015 and beyond, regardless of how folks receive the latest edition of Windows.

Comments | More in Cloud computing | Topics: azure, satya nadella, windows 10


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