Headline Feb 28, 2016/ ''' DIGITAL FORTRESS ''' *MICROSOFT*



MICROSOFT'S TOP THREE WINS in 2015 were Windows 10, the company's cloud business and its expanded artificial intelligence capability, says the CEO.

This illustrates both ways why Satya Nadella is a CEO and why he is not a technology journalist: I wanted him to bring up HoloLens , discloses the author,  -which is much sexier than any of those.

HoloLens is a wearable display that overlays the real world around you with digitally generated  three-dimensional  imagery that looks and moves and behaves like it's part of reality....*This is called augment reality*.... which he nerdishly abbreviates as AR. It's a topic to which he is happy to pivot.

''Up to now, through out our computing history, we have essentially taken what has existed in the  analog  world and created a digital metaphor, the desktop being a great example of it,'' Nadella says.

''This is the first time when you're taking the analog world and superimposing it with digital artifacts. We've always created mirror worlds. But now the world itself is a mirror.''

It's early days   -Nadella hopes to release a version to developers in 2016   -but the potential applications are spectacular. You could build  Minecraft  structures that look like they're sitting in your living room.

[Nadella, maybe not coincidentally, acquired  Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014 for $2.5 billion].  

There's a prototype combat game called Project X-Ray : ''You're fighting dragons that are coming out of your refrigerator and all kinds of things,'' Nadella says. ''It feels like a 3-D movie, but  !WOW!, it's in your house.''

'''!WOW! is his go to exclamation.'''

Companies could use HaloLens to train workers on virtual equipment. Med schools could train surgeons on virtual bodies. At your desk you could set up multiple virtual desktops that hang in the air around you.

Unlike full virtual-reality headsets like Oculus Rift,  HoloLens is mobile   -you an walk around wearing it.

''One of the first times I said,  ''Oh !WOW!, we've got to go all in,'' was when I saw NASA demo for the first time,'' Nadella says. ''Think about it: if you're a  NASA  scientist who worked on the Rover, their dream was always,''God, I want to be on Mars'............then the output of where the Rover is right in their office as halogram.

So they're walking around the Martian terrain and examining the soil as if they're there.''

HaloLens isn't a single breakthrough, it's a bunch of new technologies    -eye tracking, motion sensing,  3-D imaging,  shape recognition   -mashed up together.

As such it's the product of a kind of risk taking and cross-company collaboration that haven't always been typical at Microsoft.
Microsoft is always cited as an example of the  inertial malaise  that takes over middle-aged technology companies rendered sclerotic by too much middle-management and too much money.

''When you are successful that means your existing concept is reinforced with your existing capability, and your culture reinforces that too.'' Nadella says. ''And so suddenly you have a new concept, and !WOW!, your culture is fighting it, you don't have capability for it, and so.''

One way to beat that is to create silos,  companies within companies. In 2005 I spent a week Microsoft, says the distinguished research author, studying the development of Xbox 360, and that's how they did it-

They created a unit that was hermetically sealed off from the rest of the company, so that the culture couldn't fight the concept. And it worked: the Xbox 360 was a strong product, and unlike anything Microsoft has ever made.

But that's not how Nadella does innovation. ''I fundamentally don't believe that large, successful companies can be doing these sideshows,'' he says. ''You have to have the angst of birthing new concepts, which require new capability, and which require your culture to change as well.

If you can't do that then this Hail Mary, that somehow something carved out is going to save you, is actually a much riskier proposition.''
Case in point: In December NASA sent HoloLens headsets to the International Space Station so that astronauts could use them to make Skype calls to Earth.

[Microsoft bought  Skype  four years ago for $8.5 billion]. ''Skype is holograohic now. 

If we'd done this as some siloed thing with a few games, we wouldn't have been able to do the unique things that we're capable of, like inventing new forms of Skype for this new platform.'' The Xbox 360 didn't even run Windows. HoloLens runs Windows.

Not only does he decline to build silos, Nadella has overseen their demolition. Continuing a trend started in his predecessor Steve Balmer's era, he ran Microsoft's existing business unit structures through a blender.

''The problem with business unit structures in tech in particular is, none of our category definitions are long lasting,'' he says, ''because no innovation or competition respects your category definitions. You need to reconflate tech. So what we have done is, we bust all the business units.

We got rid of them all, and we went back into a functional organization. There's one marketing team. There's one business development team. There are a couple of different engineering teams.. Cortana, where is it built?

If I draw an org chart for Cortana it will look like a graph, not like hierarchical tree.'' [Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant, similar to Apple's Siri].

Of course there's a reason people build units in the first place, which is that when you're having that many internal conversations between different parts of the company, that's a lot of complexity to manage. Every time someone come up with a new idea, you've got 20 people weighing in on it. That's 20 people who have a chance to say no.

''That is, in fact, one of the big criticisms of our culture,'' Nadella says. ''There are so many people who can say no, very few people who can say yes.....What's at a premium for me is not people who say no but people who can make things happen. 

Though you can't say yes to everything. As an innovation safety valve Nadella has revived something called the Garage, an internal space where staffers can tinker with random projects that don't fit into current releases.

Microsoft's first  hackathons have happened under Nadella, and a lot of Garage projects come out of those.   

The Honour and Serving of the  ''Technology Operational Research'' continues. Thank You all for reading and sharing forward.

With respectful dedication to the ''Engineering and Technology'' Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and the Ecosystem 2011.

''' Frontiers In Technology '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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