Is it cloud first or mobile first? Microsoft CEO explains

Satya Nadella's press conference was reminiscent of those of former Microsoft leaders who talked tech more than business

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On his 52nd day on the job, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella held a press conference to make a few announcements (including the release of Office for iPad) but also to lay out his vision for the future of the company.

His message wasn't particularly straightforward. But it harkened back to the days when founder Bill Gates and other Microsoft execs with technical backgrounds, like former Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie, used to present regularly. They would often describe grand visions for the future, sometimes, but not always, tying into real work that Microsoft was doing. Those kinds of talks have been less frequent in recent years, when former CEO Steve Ballmer more often described visions that clearly focused on a business view of the company.

Satya Nadella

Image credit: Flickr/OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS

Nadella described a future that includes a host of new kinds of computing devices, even more data generated by those devices and new ways to analyze that data. "That exponential growth across connected users, connected devices and apps, is what is leading to this growth of the cloud," he said.

But the cloud alone isn't very useful, he noted.

In an email he sent out to Microsoft employees on his first day on the job, Nadella said that we live in a cloud-first and mobile-first world. Apparently he got some blowback about that. "I get back this email about 'how can two things be first? Do you have a problem with ordinal numbers?'" he said.

"The reality is it's one in the same. That cloud not connected to devices is latent potential because how does the cloud interact with the real world? Likewise, a device which is not connected to the cloud cannot complete the scenario," he said. "To us it's one in the same."

Nadella seemed to stress that Microsoft, under his leadership, would do more to try to serve customers no matter what device they're using. "We are committed to making our apps run on what most people describe as cross platform," he said.

In a world where apps are increasingly served from the cloud, that might become a slightly easier proposition for Microsoft.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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