Microsoft’s Turner on new products and riding the cloud wave – USA TODAY
Just in time for the holidays, Microsoft recently opened a new retail store in the heart of New York City. And while the company is not looking to place all of its bets on retail, it is selectively opening stores around the globe, giving this tech enterprise behemoth a retail face in some key areas of the world. The company’s footprint in retail could increase thanks to the stores it picked up when it acquired Nokia and its 15,000 locations around the globe. I caught up with Microsoft President Kevin Turner to see how important retail will be to this enterprise behemoth. But we began talking about terrorism after the attack in San Bernardino and how one of the alleged shooters in the attack had been pledging her love for jihad online for years without ever being noticed. Our interview follows, edited for clarity and length.
Q: The fear of terrorism has people questioning what’s more important — our privacy or national security. Can you tell us what technology companies should do with the government in terms of ensuring that the government can track terrorists online while also safe guarding people’s communication and data?
A: Our thoughts go out to those affected in the recent attacks. And it’s important that we keep them in front and center in terms of our hearts and minds and prayers. It’s also important that there’s a public debate about how to best balance personal privacy and public safety. The position we’re taking is that we’re committed to playing a constructive part in that discussion. And the reality is ultimately, it’s the government (that has) to decide how to strike that balance. We’re going to participate in both the public debate and working with governments to make sure that we get it right.
Q: FBI director James Comey says, “Look, we need more access to user information,” yet technology companies do not want to allow governments to snoop on users data and give up people’s privacy.
A: Our focus has been on arguing for reforms that modernize a lot of the outdated laws and respect national sovereignty and ensure that access to information is truly governed by the rule of law. That’s been something Microsoft’s been a big proponent of and we’ve been candidly asking government to become more contemporary. It’s not just technology companies that have a duty. It’s individual citizens, our customers have a point of view that we need to make sure we’re sensitive to and that we listen to as well.
Q: Microsoft has a fantastic vantage point in terms of your enterprise business, to where the economy is going into the new year. What are you seeing in terms of business spending on information technology and what that might tell you about the broad economy?
A: There’s a real renaissance going on right now in enterprises, specifically related to cloud technology. And it’s exciting to see businesses stepping back and reimagining themselves and rethinking business models. There’s a whole new set of disruptors that are coming online. And today, you see some traditional companies stepping up and saying, “Hey, look, I can disrupt as well.” We’re seeing a great appetite for that because the cloud is the one technology that can truly deliver cost savings and austerity and at the same time help somebody who’ll truly innovate and increase the speed and agility and customer connection that they have in a company.
Q: Why is it so effective for companies to store data and mine data in the cloud?
A: We’re at what we call hyper scale. And hyper scale says that we can help compute and storage becomes a commodity priced business for the customer, something they can’t do themselves. And as a result of that commodity price compute and storage, you’re able to then layer on incredible advanced analytics. It helps companies not only have the cost savings on the infrastructure, but reimagine their future, relative to being able to do things they never could do before.
Q: You have also broadened out the business with a breadth of products both on the enterprise side, as well as the consumer side. Tell me about some of the new products you launched ahead of the holiday season such as the fitness Band as well as the new Surface laptop.
A: This is an exciting holiday for us with the launch of Windows Ten, which we put in market a few months back. And we had over 110 million people download and use and love that product in the first 90 days. That’s enabled us to create some great hardware solutions. Not only our own hardware solutions with a new Surface Pro Four, a new Surface Book. We have a new Halo Five for Xbox in the market. We’ve got a new Microsoft Band out there, we’ve got a new release of Office 2016. We also have partnered with Dell, H-P and Lenovo and others to create some incredible products that they’re bringing to market as well.
Q: You’ve got a new laptop at a time that some people are questioning the PC business because so many have moved to their mobile device. Is it too late for laptops because people are moving to their mobile device and away from things like laptops and PCs?
A: One of the cool things about Windows Ten is it’s a platform that runs across wearables, it runs across the Internet of things, it runs across the mobile devices, tablets, laptops, desktops, Xbox in the TV and all the way up to our large screen Surface Hubs. So we have a constant code base across that entire family of devices. So when people say, “Mobile devices,” if you look at the new Surface Book, it’s really a two-in-one device. It can become a great tablet. It can become a great laptop. And so, we’ve worked hard to not only build out a great first party set of two-in-one devices with Surface and the Surface book, but we also have worked with Intel among others to make sure they’ve got great two-in-one devices as well to be able to take advantage of this mobile category.
Q: We’ve got this new fitness mentality that is taking everybody by storm where people want to track everything they’re doing, from their sleep to the number of steps they’re taking. How does the Band stand apart from the Fitbit and others like it?
A: We saw a need for both health and wellness, as well as productivity. And that’s the unique point of view we’ve got with our Microsoft Band. It’s got great health and wellness features to it. It counts your steps, it’ll tell you how much sleep you got last night. It’s a GPS. It has a heart rate and a monitor. All those things are built into it. But we also do great productivity aspects with it too. So we actually have a two-in-one Band that gives you text messages, your emails, alerts, your calendar. You can also do Cortana, our digital personal assistant, on it as well. So there’s a lot there relative to health and wellness. We saw a niche in the market to create something that bridges both productivity and the health and wellness trend that’s out there right now.
Q: Microsoft is such a huge behemoth of a company with operations all over the world. Does it get harder to grow, the larger you get? And how do you deal with that?
A: Certainly just from a sheer numbers standpoint, we operate in 191 countries. We’ve got a billion and a half people that use our products every day. With the sheer law of numbers, sure, it gets hard to continue to grow and compound. The key though in technology is that our industry’s changing so fast that if you are able to disrupt like we have with Azure, like we have with our CRM online product, like we have with Office 365, when you have something truly disruptive, you can drive growth no matter how big you are. These products and these platforms have served all of us at Microsoft as a great reminder that, no matter how big we are, no matter how successful we are, as long as we continue to listen to customers, as long as we continue to innovate and build incredible products that people love, that we can absolutely grow this company. And it’s great to see momentum and traction we’ve got in the marketplace right now.
Q: You have led a transformation or transition of Microsoft. Where that stand and how would you like the company to look different in the next five years?
A: We’ve rallied around our mission statement, which is empowering every person in every organization on the planet to achieve more. And with that mission, it’s served us extremely well, relative to North Star. And it’s provided the ability for us to invest in three big areas on the technology side. Building out the intelligent cloud, reinventing productivity and business processes, and truly delivering more personal computing.
We are not at the beginning of our transition anymore. We’re somewhere deep in the middle innings. That’s the thing that I’m really most proud of, the fact that we’ve been able to not only transform, but do something that, as you know, very few companies have been able to successfully do, and that is perform while they transform.
Q: You have to make sure that you’re not missing any major trends that are happening. Vanity Fair called the last ten years, Microsoft’s lost decade for missing mobility because at times, smaller companies came, tried to eat your lunch with new products before you could actually get that category out on the market. How do you ensure Microsoft doesn’t miss any major big trends coming out right now?
A: It mostly comes from listening to our customers and following the trends of where the market’s going because our customers can lead us to where we need to go. The enablement of the technology today that we’ve seen in the marketplace is unprecedented, relative to the appetite that people have to be able to innovate and change and transform. So it’s a daily exercise that we go through. Our next big bet will be around machine learning and it’ll be around our HoloLens technology and three dimensional holographic computing. And we’re excited about where those could be. They’re long range plays for us. But certainly, you’re going to see it show up in both of those spaces in a big way.
Q: What about your retail experience. I imagine the Xbox is a holiday favorite. How’s the Xbox doing? And why the new retail stores. I know that you just recently opened one in New York City.
A: The Xbox is doing incredibly well. We’ve got a brand new lineup of games this holiday selling season. We’ve done incredible work around the Xbox. We had an elite controller that we put out that completely sold out. You can’t even find them in retail anymore. Halo has done extremely well. It’s one of the most successful digital properties of all time. So we continue to enjoy the Xbox. We’re bringing Xbox and the games across the Windows platform. So you’ll be able to experience that not just with a gaming console, but now experience it across the Windows platform, your mobile device, your laptop, your desktop. And so we’ve got some exciting things in store there. And when you talk about retail, clearly we are in one of the most iconic shopping places in the world, we’re trying to put a retail presence out because we have seen where we’ve got a strong physical retail presence, our digital online traffic goes up significantly more. So we’ve moved from Omni channel to one channel, whether it’s digital or physical. We think that’s an important nuance. So while we’re not building out a ton of stores, we’re putting them in very select locations high traffic areas, iconic shopping places. And being able to drive both an online and a physical store presence has really given our brand a face, Maria. It allows us to tell our story in a unique way. It gives the Microsoft brand truly a face.
Maria Bartiromo is the anchor of Mornings with Maria on the fox business network seen Weekdays 6-9am ET. @mariabartiromo @morningsmaria