Microsoft CEO wants to change the company from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” company

Laurent Giret

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Just two days before the company’s much anticipated Windows 10 event in New York City, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was one of the guests at the 2016 WSJ.D Live conference in Laguna Beach, California. The exec had the opportunity to look back at Microsoft’s past success and failures as well as express what the company does to stay relevant in 2016.

As you may already know, the new CEO has been making efforts to move the technology giant away from its Windows and Office legacy, promoting a modern “mobile-first, cloud first” approach that so far has been successful for the company except for the well-known Windows Phone struggles. “Early success is probably the worst thing that can happen in life,” Nadella said to WSJ’s Editor in Chief Gerard Baker, admitting bluntly that “we clearly missed mobile.”

During the lengthy interview, the CEO explained this misstep by the fact that the company believed for too long that PCs would remain the main digital hubs for consumers. “If anything, the lesson learned for us, was thinking of PC as the hub for all things for all time to come. It was perhaps one for the bigger mistakes we made,” he added. However, Nadella explained in another segment spotted by Mashable that he still thinks that Microsoft’s is doing something unique in mobile with its Continuum feature:

We have devices which are phones today but the place where we are focused on, given where the market is, is what is the unique thing that our phone can do. We have a phone that in fact can replace your PC, the same way we have a tablet that can replace your laptop. Those are the categories that we want to go create.

Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile

Indeed, Nadella seems pretty convinced that having missed the mobile revolution, the company now has to “be on the hunt for the next big category.” The HoloLens mixed-reality headset is a pretty good example of this new strategy, though Nadella added that the company’s efforts in artificial intelligence could be even more important as Microsoft has already a growing ecosystem of partners using its AI technology to build better products.

The CEO specifically mentioned cars, “a great business to be in” even if Microsoft is not building its own self-driving car like Google, Uber and maybe Apple are trying to do. “I’m very thrilled about all the car companies using Azure today,” he explained, adding that Microsoft’s partners such as BMW and Ford are “looking for a trusted partner who is not gonna compete with them.”

Lastly, Satya Nadella shared some interesting thoughts about Microsoft’s identity in culture in 2016, explaining that “we want to push to be more of a learn-it-all culture than a know-it-all culture.” You may better understand what he meant by looking at Microsoft’s recent acquisitions such as the leading professional social network LinkedIn (which just launched a new e-learning platform) and the popular sandbox video game Minecraft. which Nadella described as “probably the best way to introduce both boys and girls in middle school to STEM education.”

In the end, Nadella seems to think that despite some major technological shifts and leadership changes at Microsoft over the last few years, the company has managed to stay true to its roots. “We are a company built for the builders of the world and I’ve always felt that we’re at our best when we really express that identity, with changing times and changing technologies.”