Microsoft restructures to focus on intelligent edge and intelligent cloud

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 03 April 2018
Microsoft restructures to focus on intelligent edge and intelligent cloud

Microsoft has created two new engineering teams – one focused on experiences and devices, and the other on cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) platforms – to help accelerate innovation and better serve the needs of its customers and partners.

In an e-mail to employees on 29 March 2018, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described the company’s reorganisation as a way of helping it to achieve its vision for how the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge will shape the next phase of technological innovation.

“First, computing is more powerful and ubiquitous from the cloud to the edge,” he said. “Second, AI capabilities are rapidly advancing across perception and cognition fuelled by data and knowledge of the world. Third, physical and virtual worlds are coming together to create richer experiences that understand the context surrounding people, the things they use, the places they go, and their activities and relationships. These technological changes represent a tremendous opportunity for our customers, our partners — everyone.”

Led by Rajesh Jha, executive vice president of Microsoft Office Product Group, the new Experiences + Devices team will focus on instilling a ‘unifying product ethos’ across Microsoft’s end-user experiences and devices. This will help the company to deliver computing experiences that harness multiple senses and span multiple devices, while bringing Windows, Office, and third-party applications and devices into a more cohesive Microsoft 365 experience.

As part of the organisational reshuffle, current corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Panos Panay will become the company’s chief product officer and further Microsoft’s product ethos across hardware and software boundaries for its first-party devices, while creating new categories and opportunities for the entire ecosystem. Meanwhile, Terry Myerson will step down from his role as executive vice president of the Windows and Devices group after 21 years at the company. However, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Operating Systems Group, will continue driving Windows innovation in partnership with the PC and device ecosystem. Plus, Brad Anderson will continue to spearhead Microsoft’s Windows Enterprise deployment and management efforts with ‘even tighter’ alignment across Microsoft 365.

“The future of Windows is bright as we continue to innovate across new scenarios and device form factors, and more deeply connect to our Microsoft 365 offerings,” said Nadella.

Microsoft’s second new engineering team – Cloud + AI Platform – will focus on driving ‘platform coherence and compelling value’ across all layers of the Microsoft technology stack. Led by enterprise vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group Scott Guthrie, the team will start by concentrating on the distributed computing fabric (cloud and edge), then move to focus on AI (infrastructure, runtimes, frameworks, tools and higher-level services around perception, knowledge and cognition).

To accelerate Microsoft’s efforts to build a unified distributed computing infrastructure and model, the Windows platform team will join forces with the Microsoft Azure team. The Strategy and Ecosystem team within the Windows and Devices Group will also help to lead technical engagement with original equipment manufacturers, original design manufacturers and silicon vendors. Microsoft’s Development and Services team will join the Cloud + AI Platform team to help with Microsoft’s own internal digital transformation and add new capabilities to its business application efforts.

Other key organisational changes include the development of a new AI Perception & Mixed Reality (MR) team, which will be led by Alex Kipman and bring together all of Microsoft’s speech, vision, MR and additional perception capabilities. This team will continue to build first-party products and the core building block cloud services for third parties on Microsoft Azure, working with both Microsoft’s Ambient Intelligence and AI + Research departments. Harry Shum, who leads the AI + Research team, will provide AI-related guidance so AI innovations can be progressed from research into products.

In addition, a new AI Cognitive Services & Platform team will be led by Eric Boyd and manage Microsoft’s AI Platform, AI Fundamentals, Azure Machine Learning, AI Tools and Cognitive Services. Joseph Sirosh’s Cloud AI team will also join this group.

To ensure Microsoft’s AI platform and experience efforts benefit the wider society and are in line with its core values, Shum and Smith have also established Microsoft’s AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research (AETHER) Committee.

“Among other steps, we are investing in strategies and tools for detecting and addressing bias in AI systems and implementing new requirements established by the General Data Protection Regulation,” said Nadella. “While there is great opportunity, ensuring we always act responsibly for our customers and partners will continue to be a hallmark of our work.”

Nadella added: “Having a deep sense of customers’ unmet and unarticulated needs must drive our innovation. Each one of us needs to push on what technology can do for people and for our world. It will take courage to keep learning and growing together — encouraging one another’s individual strengths, building more diversity and inclusion across our teams, and collaborating as One Microsoft. It’s amazing what we have been able to accomplish together, and yet I still believe we are in the very early days of what is possible.”

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