Microsoft problem- Microsoft’s Australian chief executive Steven Worrall has a message for the nation’s tech sector: grow up.
OK, those are my words, and definitely not his. But speaking to Worrall on the sidelines of a Microsoft event this week – the software giant unveiled a new hub in Sydney’s CBD where clients can experience its technologies – you get the sense he is a bit frustrated with the state of the discourse over innovation in this country.
“Disruption is here to stay, and it’s been here for some time,” he says. “There are many opinions…but if you are not looking at ways to adapt technology and find ways to utilise technology, you are probably on the wrong track.”
The $US822 billion ($1.1 trillion) company behind Windows software, Excel spreadsheets and X-Box gaming consoles is in the midst of a remarkable resurgence. It is currently vying with Apple and Amazon for the mantle of the world’s most valuable company, a title it last held in 2002. People are no longer dismissive ( in fact, they’re supportive) of its Surface tablets. Even a SuperBowl commercial it aired on US TV this week won plaudits.
The turnaround at Microsoft has been powered by its Azure cloud computing platform, on which it hosts software and rents out web infrastructure to big corporations and government departments. Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives this week described Microsoft as a “cloud behemoth”, now in a two-horse race for control of that lucrative market with Amazon (Google is a distant third).
For his part, Worrall puts the Microsoft revival down to the internal changes put in place by global chief executive Staya Nadella, who took the reins five years ago this month. There has been “a fundamental rethinking of our culture, who we are, what we stand for, how we want to show up,” he says.
“There is plenty of technology around, but it has to be people first, technology second, because ultimately enterprises, governments, organisations, are populated by people.”
All of a sudden, Microsoft has become one of the few grown-ups in tech, an industry increasingly defined by its problem children (most prominently Facebook, which has lurched from scandal to scandal over the past year, but there are plenty of other examples in start-up land).