Microsoft's new chief executive Satya Nadella took a philosophical approach to laying out his partner strategy at the firm's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) today, emphasising the impact its technology has on the wider world.
In his first direct address to partners since taking on the top role in February, Nadella (pictured) kicked off by thanking partners for the time they took out to attend the Washington event.
"For me it is such a pleasure to be at WPC... it is an amazing privilege," he said in his presentation, in which he impressed attendees by appearing to go it alone without the help of an autocue.
"So I want to start with a big thank you. I have worked with so many products throughout in my 23 years at Microsoft and there has been one thing that is constant and [that is that] they have very much all been partner led.
"We've always built products that lend themselves to this great partner model of ours and this great ecosystem we have. Saying thank you from the bottom of my heart is how I think I want to start – it means a lot."
During the first WPC keynote on Monday, the firm's chief operating officer Kevin Turner delivered a lively and aggressive speech on how Microsoft is squaring up to its competition, but Nadella's address was very different and focused more on the firm's wider impact on the world.
During his presentation, Nadella expanded on many of the themes he wrote about last week in a 3,000-word letter to Microsoft staff. He encouraged partners to "find deeper meaning" in what they do as well as engage in a "process of continuous renewal".
He directly referred to German philosopher Nietzsche's "courage in the face of reality" quote, but changed the final word to "opportunity" to represent what he claimed was Microsoft's goal.
Speaking the same language
During the hour-long speech, Nadella was joined on stage by staff who demonstrated new technology, including soon-to-be-released Skype Translator, which allows those who do not speak a common language to talk to each other.
The live demo appeared to impress partners despite a few voice-recognition hiccups and Nadella emphasised the impact such technology could have on the world.
"That is the kind of technology we get to do when we obsess about how we can change individual lives," he said. "Think about Skype Translator and apply it to customer service – communication can be fundamentally transformed.
"That's really what is in front of us: for you to take advantage of what we have done, build on us, extend, push us – let's collectively [help] our customers so we can change their businesses and their lives. We need to go forward with the boldness that we can change our culture."
First things first
At last year's WPC, Microsoft was desperate to rebrand as a "devices and services" company but this year it appeared to have dropped that message in favour of beating the "cloud first, mobile first" drum – something Nadella talked about when first taking on the top role.
He insisted his mantra was not contradictory, despite admitting to getting grilled on how both cloud and mobile can be his first priority.
"I've talked about [mobile-first, cloud-first] in a couple of different places, [and] working among 30,000 computer scientists at Microsoft, you always get an email once a day where somebody says ‘hey you have a problem with ordering numbers, how can two things be first? Can't you sort?'
"Then you kind of say, yeah, this is where sorting doesn't work: without the cloud there will be no mobile experience. It is about mobility. Without mobile endpoints – sensors or mobile devices – you're not going to have the impact on the world and on people's lives."
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