Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella waxes philosophical on Office 2016 release

Microsoft Office 2016 went live today, ending a months-long preview program that revealed a solid upgrade with enhanced functionality and closer integration with the cloud. Office is, of course, a strategic product for Microsoft, serving as a focus of this new “productivity company” that offers diverse solutions for every platform and that no longer relies on Windows as its primary cash cow.

Nobody understands the importance of Office more than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the architect of Microsoft’s bold new strategy over the last year or so. He wrote a few words to inaugurate Office and expounded on some of the key themes that have driven Office 2016’s development, and while there’s nothing new here, there’s some value in having it all laid out so nicely in one place. The fact that he posted on LinkedIn should come as no surprise, given that social network’s focus on the business user demographic.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]More and more people are relying on mobile devices, mostly smartphones, to get their work done[/pullquote]

Underlying Nadella’s essay is a simple but powerful fact: Microsoft has been forced by dramatic changes in the market to acknowledge the decreasing relevance of its hegemony in PC operating systems. More and more people are relying on mobile devices, mostly smartphones, to get their work done, and Apple and Google own that ever-growing market. Had Microsoft clung stubbornly to their Windows-first strategy of years past, they’d likely have already begun a slow fade into obscurity.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Cross-platform compatibility, and particularly support of iOS and Android smartphones, is central to Microsoft’s new strategy[/pullquote]

It’s no coincidence that Nadella begins his post by talking about the importance of supporting users in their desire to do work anywhere, any time, on any mobile device. Cross-platform compatibility, and particularly support of iOS and Android smartphones, is central to Microsoft’s new strategy, and the ability for smartphone users to access Office documents residing on OneDrive via Office 365 is a vital component.

First, work requires mobility of the human experience, not the device. Your work cannot be bound to any one device or location. You must be able to get anything done on any device you choose, anywhere you choose.

In addition, in an always-connected world, people expect to work together to complete tasks and projects. The days of creating a document and passing it around a local area network for isolated revisions is long past. Today, people expect to collaborate in real-time as they get their work done, and Office 2016 is aimed directly at making this kind of collaboration possible. Nadella calls this method of working “conversations,” and it goes hand-in-hand with the increased mobility of today’s workers.

Second, conversations are the new platform for getting work done. You need the solutions that enable you to collaborate toward shared outcomes with colleagues and partners who are in different time zones, working on different devices, in different apps and different work artifacts. Conversations are the true driver of productivity.

Finally, productivity is the most fundamental aspect of Microsoft’s strategy. As the “productivity company,” Microsoft is positioning itself as the force driving how people get real work done no matter the device they happen to be using. Office 2016 is of course central to Microsoft’s productivity push, although Nadella stresses that Microsoft now offers a host of software and hardware solutions that work alongside Office to enable the kind of mobile collaboration that will drive productivity in the years ahead.

Mobility. Conversations. Intelligence. This is why Office has transformed from a familiar set of tools like Word, PowerPoint and Excel to a new way to work together on the fly with new solutions like OneDrive, Sway, Sunrise, WunderList, Outlook, Skype, Yammer, Delve and Power BI. By subscribing to Office 365, customers get continuously updated and enhanced apps and services for use across their devices. And while Office helps more than a billion people collaborate persistently and securely on the device and platform of their choice, we will continue to set the bar high for our industry by delivering innovation that is uniquely differentiated and integrated across Windows, Office and innovative devices such as Surface.

Nadella goes on to highlight a couple of organizations that are using Office and other Microsoft solutions to maximize productivity, and that’s no coincidence. Microsoft still makes products for individual and non-business users, including the Xbox One, but the small- and medium-sized organizations, not to mention the enterprise, will remain Microsoft’s bread and butter no matter what other changes the company makes to its strategy.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Office 2016 represents the lynch pin to Microsoft strategy of building out a new kind of platform based on real-world solutions to getting things done[/pullquote]

Nadella also points out that they are offering not just individual products, but a productivity platform for organizations to use in managing the incredible amounts of information that doing business today generates. In essence, Office 2016 represents the lynch pin to Microsoft strategy of building out a new kind of platform based on real-world solutions to getting things done –minimizing the importance of platforms based around operating systems (be they iOS, Android, or even Windows).

It’s a compelling strategy that’s already paying dividends. Even Apple recognizes the importance of productivity in this new mobile and cloud-based world, mimicking Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of products with their own iPad Pro. Even more telling, Apple went so far as to invite Microsoft on-stage at a major event, to demonstrate how Office Mobile helps the “Pro” designation make at least a little bit of sense.

Nadella wraps up with a bit of fluff, but the overall message couldn’t be more grounded. People want to get work done no matter what company’s mobile device they choose, and Microsoft is doing everything it can to accommodate them.

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Is Office 2016 important in today's always-connected, mobile world?