Microsoft’s new “Modern Life Services” initiative suggests a narrowed focus on “professional consumers”

Laurent Giret

Laptops on a table

Despite Microsoft’s big bet on the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge to find new growth opportunities, the Redmond giant isn’t planning to abandon consumers. As we’ve seen in the company’s latest financial results, the “More Personal Computing” division which includes Windows, Gaming and Surface still remains the biggest money maker for Microsoft with $10.8 billion in revenue (up 17% YoY) this past quarter.

It’s true that Microsoft seriously dropped the ball on mobile (Windows Phone), digital assistants (Cortana) and entertainment (Groove Music or Kinect) in recent years, but we’ve also seen the company embracing iOS and Android devices, trying to democratize virtual reality headsets and also launch “prosumer” apps such as Microsoft To-Do, Paint 3D or Story Remix.

This week at the Inspire partner conference, Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s new CVP of Modern Life and Devices revealed that the company still cares very much about consumers according to ZDNet. ”in the last couple of years, we’ve lost a little of that magic with consumers,” said Mehdi during a presentation where he unveiled Microsoft’s new “Modern Live Services initiative. This year, Microsoft will “begin the journey to win back consumers with our vision,” added Mehdi.

This bit noted by ZDNet suggests that any consumer endeavors Microsoft is willing to undertake will likely be focused on making worker lives easier, instead of straight consumer services. In other words, Microsoft is targeting “prosumers” and will try to help them be more productive with its various productivity apps and services:

Most consumer companies are laser-focused on one thing, Mehdi said. Amazon is focused on shopping; Spotify, on music; Netflix on movies. Microsoft’s core value proposition is productivity, he said. The company’s job is to try to make productivity more sexy.

Being recognised as a productivity software expert is one thing, but Mehdi also revealed the company’s plans to leverage hardware to push its “Modern Life Services” vision, including its own Surface hardware:

Microsoft is dedicating more marketing and sales resources than ever to try to push the Surface line, especially taking aim at consumers, Mehdi said. Microsoft also will make part of the new consumer campaign its Cortana digital assistant, which will be coming to more smart home devices, such as the Johnson Controls GLAS smart thermostat as of this summer.

While Microsoft is getting ready launch its most affordable Surface tablet, the new 10-inch Surface Go in early August 2018, you shouldn’t expect Microsoft to try to compete with iOS and Android with a new Surface phone. Microsoft is reportedly not convinced that its “Andromeda” foldable mobile device concept could be successful, and this week at Inspire we actually saw Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave an extensive demo of Microsoft 365 using an Android phone. Because yes, Microsoft focusing on consumers means that the company can’t ignore that Windows PCs are no longer the main digital hubs in our lives.