Shareholders press Microsoft CEO Nadella on mobile strategy

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Anxious shareholders pressed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on the company’s strategy for mobile devices and services this week at an annual shareholders meeting.

“I have heard that you are stepping away from mobile,” one shareholder said during a conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Can you calm me down and tell me where your future—what your vision is for mobile?”

“So, our overall approach again to the previous question is we think about mobility broadly,” Nadella responded. “In other words, we think about the mobility of the human being across all of the devices, not just the mobility of a single device. That said we are not stepping away or back from our focus on mobile devices.”

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Nadella also conceded Windows minuscule share of the market for mobile operating systems, as GeekWire noted, saying it’s important that Microsoft support more popular platforms.

Microsoft hasn’t been a major player in the mobile OS market in many years, of course, but Windows appears to be sliding toward oblivion in some major markets. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech recently reported that its market share in China has dwindled from 2.3 percent to just .1 percent over the last year, for instance, and in Germany it plunged from 10.5 percent to 4 percent.

The company announced plans in July to slash 2,850 more jobs across its phone-manufacturing business and worldwide sales force as it continued to retreat from the market.

That retreat has come as Microsoft has increasingly focused on providing software and services to users across hardware platforms and operating systems rather. That may be a wise strategy in a market where no OS provider has emerged to threaten Android and iOS. But as Nadella suggested when he addressed another question at this week’s conference, companies that build their own devices from the ground up—including the operating system—have an advantage over those that make devices running other platforms.

“When we control things silicon-up, that’s how we will integrate those experiences,” he said. “But when we are on other people’s platform because that’s the basic construct that we have… we will not only build for you devices that are unique and differentiated with our software capability on top of it, whether it’s Surface or Surface Studio or HoloLens or the phone, and also make our software applications available on Android and iOS and other platforms.”