back to article Decoding Microsoft: Cloud, Azure and dodging the PC death spiral

Microsoft's Future Decoded event took place in London this week, with CEO Satya Nadella and Executive VP Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie on stage to pitch the company's "cloud and mobile" message. Nadella was in Paris on Monday and moved on to a shorter Future Decoded event in Rome later in the week, so this is something of …

  1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    I read this as...

    "We still exist. We're doing shiny, too - look. Windows Phone, that's just about still a thing you can buy. And Active Directory - we know you hate it, it's still not as good as NDS used to be, but who else is there any more? Oh and our expression recognition is just about sort of usable - no worse than anyone else's."

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: I read this as...

      I miss Novell - why is it still so difficult for MS to have proper file versions? That said, I don't miss trying to use Novell as an application server.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: I read this as...

      "but makes up for that to some extent by a huge SaaS (Software as a Service) presence with Office 365"

      To some extent?! Microsoft overtook Amazon in total cloud revenue 2 quarters ago and the gap is growing.

      "And Active Directory - we know you hate it, it's still not as good as NDS used to be"

      In what way? NDS is terms of features was far more limited than AD is now - and it was a nightmare to work with.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I read this as...

        "Microsoft overtook Amazon in total cloud revenue 2 quarters ago"


        Well if that's right then, Mr Microsoft, considering how insignificant azure's marketshare is compared to aws then there's some serious over payments going on.

        Personally, the price I'm getting for azure is ok - so I'm not sure where you're getting your facts from or how much fiddling has occurred.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I read this as...

          "so I'm not sure where you're getting your facts from or how much fiddling has occurred."

          From the previous 2 quarterly results of Amazon and Microsoft. I doubt any fiddling has occurred bearing in mind the severe penalties under US law for false accounting reports...

          "considering how insignificant azure's marketshare is compared to aws "

          Only in your mind. In reality, Azure is growing much faster than AWS, has numerous advantages for enterprises and many are actively moving to it.

  2. Alister Silver badge

    Microsoft is a long way behind Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the IaaS (Infrastructure as a service) market but makes up for that to some extent by a huge SaaS (Software as a Service) presence with Office 365,

    Whilst this is undoubtedly true, Azure does have one distinct advantage, and that is the cost of Database storage if you need to use Microsoft SQL.

    Unsurprisingly, to bring up a Windows Server 2012 VM with SQL Server 2014 on it requires software licensing, however Microsoft deliberately undercut their normal SQL pricing to make it a no-brainer to choose Azure over AWS.

  3. tiggity Silver badge


    Ahem, I think you ought to have said "no kudos to Coe for showing up".

    His time would be better spent (assuming some degree of competence, which is obviously a bit hopeful!) sorting out the many issues that urgently need addressing at the IAAF.

    But hey, why bother with those pressing issues when you can instead get easy cash for attending & giving a bit of spiel at a corporate beano instead (& for doing so, probably get paid an amount lots of us plebs do not earn in a year).

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    All that forest ... gone!

    But maybe they will plant trees on the roof?

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: All that forest ... gone!

      I'm not so sure. The picture may look like wilderness, but there are practical concerns for datacenters that say you can't put them right in the middle of nowhere. They need transportation connection for the staff, and power connections. Multiple independent power connections, which means a long string of pylons isn't going to cut it. Turn the camera around a bit and you'd probably see a built-up city area not too far away. If it was really isolated it'd just cost far too much to bury power and fiber lines along multiple routes.

  5. boltar Silver badge

    What PC death spiral?

    Sure, the people who only ever used a PC as a media consumption device have gone off to phones or tablets. But for those of use who use PCs to actually create media/programs/documents/etc or run applications that really don't lend themselves to touchscreen operation, then the PC whether running windows, linux or OS/X (yes a mac is a PC) is still highly relevant and I don't see it going down any death spiral anytime soon. And thats without even mentioning x86 servers that power most business middle and back ends these days.

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: What PC death spiral?

      "yes a mac is a PC"

      Depends on what definition you use, innit? "PC" has been sufficiently attached to Microsoft that it allowed the "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" campaign. One way or another, Macs aren't bringing a lot of money to Microsoft.

      The x86 powering back ends are nice, but Microsoft revenue still has taken quite a hit these past years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What PC death spiral?

        "Depends on what definition you use"

        Exactly. PC as in "Microsoft's desktop" certainly is dwindling. Every other definition of a "PC" is increasing, if anything.

    2. Palpy

      Re: What PC death spiral?

      Well, yes, I'm looking at a 23" screen right now... oddly, it's neither a tablet nor a phone. I must be some kind of Neanderthal.

      Everybody where I work has a grandpa-box on their desk. Or under the desk. Nobody does anything serious on a tablet.

      Yes, the big chatter for several years has been Death of the PC... And this as Android tablets and phones seem poised to take over the Most Hackable Platform crown from MS Windows. Sheesh. Kids will be kids, and they love shiny. Now go play in the street, PR kiddies, the rest of us are serious.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: What PC death spiral?

        > Death of the PC

        Manufacturers do not care about usage, they are only interested in sales and revenue. The 'Death of PCs' only refers to sales.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: What PC death spiral?

      If by death spiral they mean PC sales aren't what they used, then well, no they aren't. Your average hobbyist/home user doesn't buy a new PC until the old one absolutely stops working and can't be fixed. In my experience that's about once every ten years. This means the home market is pretty stabilized at this point.

      For the average user, setting up a new PC and moving all their old files and then reinstalling all their special programs is daunting at best and impossible on the average. For us pros, it's easier than ever and thank god, but for the average user, it's still inscrutable magic. I've seen far too many users have meltdowns when they can't have their obsolete favorite old program installed on the new PC. Sometimes, I don't blame them. A lot of new programs are utter crap.

      1. Frank N. Stein

        Re: What PC death spiral?

        Home users can use tablets and smart phones for content consumption all they want. Businesses aren't switching their Cube farm occupying knowledge workers to Tablets over PC's or laptops that cost less and do a lot more. The bean counters won't allow it. Managers and Supervisors? Sure. Tablet or smartphone. Cube farm workers will be using PC's for quite some time to come. This "death of the PC" nonsense started around 1998 when the "Java Station"/thin client was supposed to take over. Thing is, businesses weren't willing to invest in overly expensive server infrastructure to do the heavy lifting, as well as the staff to manage that infrastructure. Want to watch movies and listen to music? Those tablets and smart phones are great. Want to get some work done at your cube farm job? They won't be buying you a tablet to do that with.

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: What PC death spiral?

          The PC remains a staple of work, and will be for the forseeable future, but even there sales are not what they were. There's little growth in the market - every company that could benefit from computerisation has already done so. Upgrades also are not what they were. There was a time not long ago when you could barely get a PC delivered before a new one came out with twice the memory and a much faster processor, and new software with ever-rising requirements made sure they sold. It was standard practice for companies to refresh their PCs every two years, three at most. Now? A five-year-old PC is perfectly sufficient. Refresh cycles are slower, and getting more so all the time. Software is also 'good enough' - just look how long it took to get rid of Windows XP.

        2. Tom 13

          Re: The bean counters won't allow it

          Depends on the bean counters. At my location those bean counters have been pushing tablets and making desktops, even for power users, the more difficult item to order. The rationale here is that it's better to issue the tablet and replace it every three years than a desktop and a laptop for travel and home use.

          And we are moving to a virtual network as part of a massive network consolidation projects. On the other hand, because it's government, it's going to be a private cloud not one of the commercial ones. Depending on which virtual system you have, they wouldn't object to a phone or tablet for the user. It's just the user will object if the device won't connect to a keyboard, mouse, and larger display.

          But the point about actual knowledge workers is correct. It's been amusing watching the hoops they've jumped through to get a laptop to run even a basic version of Autocad. Should be even more amusing when they need to order laptops for the Adobe Creative Suite users.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: reinstalling all their special programs is daunting at best

        It's not so much the reinstall as it is that at 10 years the new platform you get with your new hardware is no longer compatible with your install disks. So you have to buy a new license for each of those specialized programs. The daunting bit is the extra cost that adds to buying the new PC.

        This is where a truly user friendly version of Linux would clean up. Install Linux then install all those special programs because it will still accept them.

        Oh, and that means the reason the reinstalls are so easy for the pros is that the licenses are covered under some sort of Enterprise agreement.

        A lot of new programs are utter crap.

        My landlord/roommate will concur 1000% on this. He hasn't upgraded to the current software for his Mac because they changed something in the functionality of the picture manipulation software included with the OS. As he is fond of taking entirely too many pictures* on his intercontinental trips that occur at least once every two years, this is completely unacceptable to him.

        *At the moment I think he has about 1T of storage on sim cards and sometimes feels squeezed for storage space even though he purges bad pictures nightly.

    4. Shane Sturrock

      Re: What PC death spiral?

      How many people bought a PC just to get on the internet and do some e-mail? Those people are usually perfectly well served by a tablet or even a phone. Better even because those devices are far cheaper and don't require the level of maintenance that a PC has and that's the attraction. Those of us who make our living programming for instance will still need a desktop but what about those people who just work in Office docs? This is why MS is pushing so hard in the cloud space with 365 and put Office on platforms other than Windows/Mac including iOS and Android. They need people to keep creating and editing documents in Office formats otherwise they really will become irrelevant. The fact that they're making phones which can be a desktop too just reinforces this but my personal opinion is I don't like the one device/OS fits all approach and have a phone, tablet, laptop and desktop and they're all for different needs despite there being significant crossover.

      The money in the market is being divided beyond microsoft's grasp where they used to be the only game in town and the PC the only tool. Neither of those are the case now and that's why the PC is a shrinking market with lower turnover rates. There's still plenty of money to be made but MS doesn't control the software world any more. Windows isn't the only platform choice and that's better for everyone.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: what about those people who just work in Office docs?

        Does the device have a keyboard, mouse, and reasonable sized display, or the ability to easily connect to same?

        If you can get to the point where the answer to that question is yes, then yeah, they can move to a non-pc/laptop device. NO! Those virtual touch screen keyboards don't count.

        Yes, I do expect the home market will go away. To the extent that's been fueling the IT industry it will be a problem. But it only moves us back to a 1980s style situation where only serious hobbyists or work from home types will have PCs. It isn't a death spiral the same way the buggy whip market was.

    5. robin thakur 1

      Re: What PC death spiral?

      I think he means the sales death spiral. Ever since Vista screwed MS up proper, the system requirements for Windows have shrunk rather than grown with the result that people aren't replacing their devices as often. Given that most of those users have now transitioned to iPads, android landfill devices and iPhones (and aren't replacing their iPads as often as Apple would like either) this leaves a core of businesses and those that still need a pc, the groups you mentioned. Balanced, decent devices like the Surface are very few and far between in the PC market, the rest all tend to look compromised in some way or another to hit a pricepoint, so you can see why sales aren't growing very well, especially desktops.

  6. Voyna i Mor Silver badge


    Jessica Ennis-Hill is a gifted athlete and the sort of role model this country needs to show its kids.

    The other two could be considered as exemplars of what is going wrong with Microsoft. One's associated somehow with cloudy something and the other one is associated (though I am really not suggesting any kind of guilt by association) with an unwieldly organisation which might seem in the minds of unkind people to have a competence deficit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Celebrities

      "and the other one is associated (though I am really not suggesting any kind of guilt by association) with an unwieldly organisation which might seem in the minds of unkind most people to have a competence deficit."

      Well he is now after appearing at this event of theirs !

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: Celebrities

        I do tend to be a bit careful around the laws of libel. I am not an unkind person, so I believe that both the IAAF and Microsoft are extremely competent, well managed organisations whose legal departments are full of brilliant lawyers.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Celebrities

          Your personal belief in stating facts shall be amply rewarded in due time!

  7. SVV Silver badge

    Some pretty funny stuff in here

    "It is not hard to envisage an outdoor display or even a TV that would pump out different ads according to how you are feeling, for example.

    Considering how irritating I find advertising, I dread to think how awful this would be, but fortunately the chancrs of MS being able to develop a technology that knows how I am feeling are very slim, unless it detects that I am not happy as I permanently disable any camera on a piece of kit that attempts to try and do this.

    "The phone that works like yuur PC"

    That's not going to sell too well then is it ? Considering all the grief PC owners running Windows have had to put up with ovr the years.

    Finally, Project Oxford, spending goodness knows how much on a device that lets you know when a plant needs watering. Wow. I suggest they look through some old electronic project books, as I distinctly remember a simple moisture detector circuit that was meant to do this.

    The calibre of "celebrities" has already been sufficiently commented upon by previous posters.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Some pretty funny stuff in here

      Project Oxford is the AI research - machine learning work, demonstrated here doing some emotion recognition.

      The plant is Florence.

    2. Martin Maloney

      Re: Some pretty funny stuff in here

      I could probably cobble together an odor sensor, plugged into a PC's USB port, with a program to monitor it, that would sound a klaxon, every time that my cat takes a dump in her litter box, just as a similar setup could tell me when to water my plants.

      My question, though, is, “Why?”

      Wouldn't a regular schedule, with the self-discipline to follow it, accomplish the same thing?

      Doesn't anyone comprehend that Rube Goldberg contraptions were a joke?

  8. Frank N. Stein

    Is Microsoft powering Azure with Windows Server? That doesn't scale anywhere near Unix and Linux, so are they secretly deploying that home brew flavor of Linux they won't talk about, or someone else's?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Is Microsoft powering Azure with Windows Server?"

      With Hyper-V Server

      "That doesn't scale anywhere near Unix and Linux"

      You clearly havn't worked in the front line for a decade - Windows Server outperforms Linux in pretty much any off the shelf role these days - especially as a Hypervisor platform - where say KVM simply can't match Hyper-V for scalability and performance (not to mention features). Hence why KVM has ~1% market share versus Hyper-V on ~30%.

      You can scale up to 6TB in a single system image with off the shelf servers these days so even larger UNIX systems like Power PC and AIX based systems don't have much on Wintel until you get into very very large scale up models.

    2. Wilco

      Yes, MS are powering Azure with Windows Server - the underlying OS appears to be Windows Server 2008 according to wikipedia.

      You are probably right that you get a bit more bang from given hardware with Linux, though it's quite hard to find any compelling recent evidence for this. I'm not sure that this really matters very much in a world where compute resources are metered.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Yes, MS are powering Azure with Windows Server"

        Nope - Hyper-V Server:

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Telemetry Profit

    I wonder how MS cooks it's books to hide all the profit from selling telemetry on their users?

  10. robin thakur 1

    So Windows Phone is dead then?

    Reading between the lines, MS doesn't exactly seem to be shouting the benefits of Windows phones from the rooftops even with Continuum (or whatever it's called) and seems to be talking up using MS apps on non MS phones like the iPhone Pro. Seems odd, therefore that they just launched two of them, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Lumia line wasn't canned after this year especially with the Onedrive camera Roll F*** you they did recently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So Windows Phone is dead then?

      "I wouldn't be surprised if the Lumia line wasn't canned after this year especially "

      I would - they are making good progress in many enterprises as the replacement to Blackberry - and as we all know that's the market Microsoft really cares about...They have unique key selling points for consumers too - the top Lumia devices have by far the best mobile cameras, touch screens and microphones on the market.

      "especially with the Onedrive camera Roll F*** you "

      You get a year's worth of "free" Office 365 with 1TB of OneDrive disk instead. Obviously Microsoft hope to sell you cloud services eventually so you can see why they have changed the model even if it does seem a bit sucky...

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