Microsoft shifts focus to devices and services

Microsoft shifts focus to devices and services

BANGKOK - Microsoft is moving from being a software company to a company of leading devices and services, says Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International.

The purpose of the shift, he said, is to create a family of devices integrated with services, and cloud services in particular, which enable more people - both consumers and businesses.

The US-based giant has, for example, been building cloud services on phones and tablets to enable hundreds of millions of people around the world to use Skype.

"We see a big momentum in the enterprise world of companies adopting cloud. Indeed, there is a survey saying that by 2016, the vast majority of projects run by enterprise companies would be 'cloud first', meaning starting with cloud. We see Thailand and ASEAN as very fast moving in the cloud," said Courtois.

On the services side, Microsoft has built for the enterprise, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online, and sales have reached US$1.5 billion (S$1.87 billion), he added.

Microsoft also provides Yammer, which is a social-enterprise collaboration tool that it says is used by 85 per cent of the world's Fortune 500 companies, including Bangkok Bank.

The firm has also created a cloud platform called Windows Azure, with more than 50 per cent of Fortune 500 companies running some of their key business applications on the platform.

"There is a strong momentum with cloud. And I think the key reasons for that are really twofold. First, Microsoft has built the most comprehensive cloud platform that enables our customers to optimise the private cloud, to potentially use a service provider to access applications.

"The second is that obviously trust - meaning enabling security, privacy, safe data management, and giving access to information to people you know you can verify - is critical, and is simply mandatory. There is also the European Union-model cloud, which is a very recent legal requirement for enterprises to run cloud services safely; with data staying in Europe, with the ability to check and audit information, and the ability to certify the services for third parties," said the company chief.

There are huge opportunities for the company in Thailand, Courtois said, adding that the firm has 1.9 million students in schools using Office 365 for free, all across the Kingdom. This is one of the biggest countries in the world in terms of using cloud services in schools.

Thai smartphone sales

Meanwhile, since announcing it was on the verge of acquiring Finland's Nokia - the company that makes Lumia mobile phones - Microsoft in Thailand has chalked up a 15-per-cent share of the smart-phone market.

This is strong growth compared to where it started, with just 2-3 per cent of the market only 15 months ago, he said.

"We have strong aspirations with our strong partner Nokia to enable a lot of apps, both for consumers - such as the Bangkok Bank app - but also for businesses. There are a lot of new developments in our company. As I said, we recently announced our intention to buy Nokia - that's a really big move.

"The other thing that I want to call attention to is the fact that Microsoft is building and selling a tablet called the Microsoft Surface, which we launched a few months ago. We just announced last week the new version of Surface. The Surface 2 is in a way the most productive tablet and device you can use as a mobile professional. It is both a tablet I can use at work, and at home, I can use actually it as a laptop," said Courtois.

As regards its store network, Microsoft now has four major outlets in the US but no other plans outside its home country at this stage. That said, it expends a lot of energy on partnerships across the world - for example, the Surface is now on sale through more than 10,000 retailers globally, he said.

"Today, we aspire to have the third-biggest system in the mobile-device world. Key to this is our Windows Phone and our partnership with Nokia and a few others, where we are reaching a tipping point in some markets.

"In Thailand, it is about 15 per cent [of the market] and in some Latin American countries such as Mexico they are going beyond 20 per cent - and in Finland it is over 30 per cent. Some of the larger European countries like the UK, France, Spain and Italy are now all 10 per cent. Again, we came from nowhere just a few years ago and, yes, we have ambitions to grow our market share and make the market more balanced, which is healthy for customers," said the Microsoft International president.

He said that in the devices business, the company is also very supportive of the broader system of original-equipment manufacturing and the selection of tablets.

Moreover, the Windows 8.1 operating system is coming out in about 10 days. It is faster, has an elegant user face, can split a screen into three windows, multi-task and resize tiles as small, mid-sized or large on a device, he said.

It also has a new deep-search experience with Bing on the device and on the Web. There are many other additional features, including security and management for the enterprise.

"There is big momentum happening in devices and services, and this is what our tablet is really focused on - really leading and accelerating the transformation," said Courtois.

He said Microsoft believed that by 2020, there would be 50 billion connected devices around the world, and "that's a lot of small devices".

That means that as a devices and services company, there is a huge opportunity for Microsoft - and it is very clear that Thailand is a country ahead of the curve, he added.

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