Is Microsoft finally breaking down its barriers of bureaucracy?

By Sooraj Shah
14 Mar 2014 View Comments
Audit Barriers

Microsoft has long been known as a leader in technology, its operating system conquered the world decades ago for the PC and its accompanying software continues to be used by consumers and businesses alike. But a stinging criticism of the software giant in recent years has been its inability to innovate, leaving it behind in key areas of technology growth, such as the smartphone, e-reader and tablet markets.

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This has enabled its rivals, most prominently Apple, Amazon and Google, to build a head of steam as Microsoft plays catch-up. The criticism of the Redmond, Washington based firm is that it, like many technology heavyweights, had its innovation stifled by bureaucracy.

At the firm's Dynamics Convergence conference 2014, Computing asked Kirill Tatarinov, executive vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, whether Microsoft was still innovating, or merely making existing technology available to its customers - after a keynote speech in which he suggested that Microsoft's focus was not to innovate, but to bring technology to "everybody". 

In response he said: "It is absolutely about innovating and our R&D budgets surpass most R&D budgets on earth; it is about inventing new things, new scenarios and approaches and bringing this to the masses.

"We will not always be the first to bring the technology to market and that's OK, but we will be the best in making the new technology available to everybody, and it has been in our strategy for the last 35 years and continues to be," he added.

But while Tatarinov suggested things don't need to change at Microsoft, the shift of CEO from Steve Ballmer - who had been criticised for creating an "everyone for themselves" culture at the firm - to Satya Nadella, a man with 20-plus years at Microsoft, who has a determined approach to not rely on tradition alone, suggests otherwise.

"Our industry does not respect tradition - it only respects innovation," Nadella has been quoted as saying.

This, coupled with many of the firm's announcements at Convergence 2014, suggests that the company has indeed changed tack.

For example, Tatarinov later admitted to journalists that Microsoft is supporting operating systems from rival companies such as Apple and Google because the enterprise had developed into a "heterogeneous" environment.

"For us to support that enterprise, and give them technology to run their business, we need to support the heterogeneous," he said.

"That's the approach we took with Microsoft Dynamics, as we have the technology and architectural path to be able to do that. HTML5 is serving us very well and we essentially are committed to serving the enterprise with the technology of their choice, and that applies to the front office with Dynamics CRM, and to the back office," he added.

Christine Dover, research director at analyst firm IDC, believes that the shift by Microsoft was necessary.

"They're understanding and appreciating that the world is not all blue, and they are being more open. If they didn't open themselves up to other operating systems like Android and iOS, they would have closed out people who are on those devices," she said.

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