The backbone of the Microsoft machine, PC-based Windows, is entering the twilight of its existence.
Don’t worry. Your classic PC isn’t going away any time soon. But the money Microsoft has been allocating to user-interface R&D for personal devices used to create, store, share and collaborate on documents is being re-directed to its cloud-hosted Azure virtualization services.
Simply put, the PC operating system is no longer necessary to support today’s numerous and increasingly popular non-PC devices. I can run Microsoft Office applications from my iPad and Android phone, but the interface – the keyboard and mouse – that we use to interact with these applications today suddenly have a shorter shelf life than we might have expected.
In fact, the technology that supports building and sharing documents is on a glide path to be overhauled by artificial intelligence (AI). Digital personal assistants, IoT sensors and predictive analytics will likely take over much of what we do today via keyboard and mouse inputs. This transformation will take place through on a number of massive waves of change that will reorient the way people work through a combination of manual and automated processes.
With an ever-greater emphasis on leveraging the combination of AI and machine learning, workstreams will be automated to use personal behavioral analytics, team interaction telemetry, contextual content management, business intelligence and task-priority ranking to redefine how people do their jobs. Those who are used to organizing their own calendar and activities will need to get comfortable instead with work that is prioritized for them by automation and analytics.
As the Windows PC operating system moves further away from actual personal computing, it will evolve into a highly advanced digital assistant that manifests on any user interface connected to the Azure ecosystem. If you believe your work/life balance is out of whack today, this new paradigm could likely erase the professional and personal boundaries altogether as digital assistants will leverage social inputs from a user’s work and personal life.
Of course, all this technological progress could run into important privacy headwinds as much of the automation envisioned is dependent on access to user telemetry, behavioral analytics and digital rights management. Countries in the EU today have very clear limits on what employee data can be monitored and reported on, let alone what can be used to direct users’ work priorities. Combine this with increased regulatory stringency being applied to the big data engines such as Facebook, Google and others and you can see how this change in personal computing is going to be tested – and, in some cases, resisted – by those who feel that privacy abuses are already out of hand.
Most of us know that, in today’s business climate, change is the only constant. According to its CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft holds that innovation must come from “a deep sense of customers’ unmet and unarticulated needs.”
We would be naive if we didn’t prepare for the fact that tech companies believe change is what is good for us, even if we don’t know it yet. Contact ISG to learn more.