When asked by GigaOm founder Om Malik at the LeWeb '13 conference in Paris to predict the direction that technology is headed in the next 10 years, Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Cloud and Enterprise for Microsoft, indicated that the present already offers some clues. He said that "this meme of digitizing everything is well on its way."
Nadella pointed to how technology is transforming one of the most ancient facets of society: farming. At an Israel-based company called AKOL, he said, "agriculture is being revolutionized." On AKOL's platform, "pretty much everything about food production is now digitized."
Nadella went into further detail in a Dec. 10 blog post. AKOLogic, the company's technology, "will enable local officials to monitor fruit, vegetable, dairy and poultry production in real time." In addition to increased public safety and improved food supply monitoring, the effects could be game-changing for some producers.
AKOL's tech could potentially "allow third-world farmers to cost effectively comply with first-world standards and regulations, thereby helping them gain access to new markets," said Nadella.
Another example Nadella cited is the latest Forza Motorsport game for Xbox One, which harnesses cloud computing to "learn" a player's behavior and model a virtual driver that competes against other racers. The next 10 years will be defined by an "ambient intelligence that's powering every experience" and that is "what we will see through in the next decade," he said on the LeWeb '13 stage.
Nadella is considered to be among the top candidates for the CEO position at Microsoft, and his remarks offer a glimpse of what the company may look like under his leadership. On Aug. 23, Steve Ballmer announced that he was retiring from the CEO post after heading the software giant for 13 years.
"Over the next 10 years, we will reach a point where nearly everything will become digitized," wrote Nadella. He added "an ever-growing network of connected devices, incredible computing capacity from the cloud, insights from big data and intelligence from machine learning" will make it possible, and developers that leverage these technologies will lend a hand.
He envisions that coders "will create new applications and services that help us transform what we do at work, and life, into digital equivalents."
The shift, already on its way, will have a big impact on how organizations conduct business. Given momentum by "innovations from startups and investment from the enterprise," said Nadella, "every business will be a digital business, everyone can be a developer and nearly everything analog will be digitized."
In terms of how Microsoft will fare in such a future, Nadella told Malik "that it all comes down to re-conceptualizing the business you're in." Referencing Microsoft's progress on touch, pen and speech input along with its growing cloud services and infrastructure ecosystem, he added, "input/output on the client, better utilization on the backend will fundamentally change, and we have to play in it."
"And that's what we're doing with our cloud platform, and what we're doing with our devices," added Nadella. When asked if "Microsoft can overcome itself and embrace this future," Nadella answered, "We have to."
"There is no other answer in this business other than to say you renew yourself every day," he added. It's an ability he is confident Microsoft can leverage at scale, which will allow the company to survive, perhaps thrive, as future innovations emerge.