During the past week at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, between the sessions and the keynotes, the goals of the company came into a focus a bit more - or at least, one specific objective of these goals.
Microsoft thinks we have too many devices. We often have two phones, one for work, and one for personal. Two PCs, one for work and one for personal use and the same for tablets, if your company deploys them. It was thought that this need for several devices might go away with BYOD (bring your own device) but alas, this shift does not yet appear to have alleviated the need for multiple work and personal devices.
Satya Nadella and others touched on this by saying that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your productivity because the device you are using is not supported by your employer or that your work device can’t access your personal documents. Microsoft has made it clear that they are the company that helps you get things done and with their new initiative of having software on every platform, that reality is coming into focus.
Nadella said that Microsoft will shine in productivity experiences and this means that every platform from Android to Windows will be able to enjoy premium Microsoft experiences. Of course, we expect Microsoft to promote that Windows ecosystem as offering the best experience but those on Android, iOS and Mac will not have a second-class experience either.
But how will Microsoft take these experiences and blend the line between work and play? Well, that is still a work in process but we can start to see these barriers breaking down with Office on the iPad. During WPC, Microsoft showed off how in Excel on the iPad, data can only be pasted into applications that support the rights management for that software. Specifically, they showed how you could not paste company Excel data in to the mail client that ships with iOS, without the proper permissions on your device.
The point of that demo was to show how even on an iPad, Microsoft is able to secure your data. While not a perfect example of one iPad for both personal and business use, you can start to see the foundation of how digital rights management can work to secure corporate data without having to take over the entire iPad.
Per our conversation with Microsoft employees during the week, they know that the path ahead to deliver on this initiative is not an overnight project. It will take years to perfect the model and more importantly, to get consumers and corporations to buy into this model.
Besides, does anyone really like having to carry around multiple devices that are only separated by rights management? The answer to that question is typically ‘no’ and it’s a problem that Microsoft has the capability to fix and is working on the solution. It's not unheard of to see someone having two devices, both from the exact same vendor in their pockets but because one device is for work and can't have personal data on it; it's a silly problem that can be fixed.
Expect to see small nuances that targets this multi-device problem showing up in future products but the biggest challenge is that it’s not simply getting one application to support this model, it’s getting every application by all vendors to support this goal. While that’s not an easy task, it has to start somewhere and Microsoft is pushing ahead with its own products.