The Grill: Microsoft’s global CTO, Norm Judah

Chloe Herrick sits down with Microsoft’s global CTO, Norm Judah, to talk about the company’s roadmap, the future of the desktop, the cloud, and competing with Apple and Google.

Chloe Herrick: What is Microsoft’s roadmap for the next three years?

Norm Judah: On the Cloud side, we’ve been in the services business for a long time not confusing technology services from consulting services. We were doing technology services for a long time given what we were doing with MSN, Bing and Hotmail and others but we’re sort of in the middle of this transition of the conversion of our server products into services which is an nontrivial transformation, taking a packaged product and making it available as a service and you’ll see that continue to evolve and have product groups focus on that over subsequent releases. You’re starting to see, for example, in the CRM business where we’re shipping at the same time the Cloud product and the on-premise product, same functionality, customer’s choice as to where you want to run and there’s some advantages to running both on-premise and in the Cloud and so I think you’ll see that transition happening to many things in the Cloud services base.

There’s another inflection point which is on identity and access, as different users are getting access to these services it’s very important particularly when you get into the enterprise space of knowing who you are, what it is you’re entitled to do, do you have rights to access the things you want to get access to. One of the key discontinuities with the Cloud is identity and access because you may be coming from a well known device, an identifiable device, you may be coming from an unidentifiable place and if that’s true, are you who you claim you are and are you entitled to do the things you’re trying to do.

Then on the devices space, it’s really three different models that we’ve been working on for a long time. The one devices model is sort of the Xbox model which is when we do everything and we integrate all the way from the software, the services, the devices all the way up. There’s one in the middle, which is what we’ve done with Windows Phone, where we have this hard core chassis spec and we work with a limited number of vendors to build devices compatible with that spec that ensures that if you write an application for a Windows phone, it will run on every one of those phone, the compatibility issues are not there. Then the other end of the spectrum is the Windows model which has two views in it, one is the client side model with hundreds of thousands of combinations of hardware and software, different devices, and then even on Windows server where there are 3000 or 4000 combinations, in that case each one of those ecosystems operates slightly differently and we’ll pick the right model in the right place over time.

Today selling Windows is also about selling the Windows device, selling the phone is about the phone device and there’s no single model that works for us you have to pick the right one so the longer term strategy for us is about how we take these devices and then connect them into services.

What is MS’s desktop strategy, what is next for Windows, Office, how will you stand up against Google OS?

I can’t talk about Windows 8, but at a broader level on the desktop level, we see not just desktops but personal systems which includes the phone and devices, what we’re looking at is the way people work in their different work styles: in the office, when you’re mobile, when you’re at home and looking at the various personas that you’ve got. Looking at these work styles and trying to understand how people work and collaborate with one another and how they share things and communicate… then look at how we can integrate that into the desktop and into the various work groups and how they interconnect with each other. Access and identity tends to pop into all areas, but we’re more interested in looking at the work styles of individuals and creating these flexible work styles and then tying in collaboration tools, system tools, image manipulation tools, story tools and how they get together and that should be done in a pretty seamless way. I think you’ll find us continuing to participate in the office, on the road and at home; particularly with Xbox and Kinect and the ability to have a different relationship with the device and really open it up to many different users. One of the things we’re seeing is once we opened up Kinect to an [software development kit] so that people can program to it, we’re seeing unbelievable experimentation go on where people are building commercial enterprise applications using Kinect. The trickle down is not just from enterprise to consumer, we’re starting to see a lot of trickle up or down from the consumer side into the enterprise side.

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