Satya Nadella has often stressed that many of Microsoft’s (MSFT) products and services can’t be pigeonholed as either “consumer” or “business” offerings.
Rather, they handle both consumer and business use cases, and often for the same person. For example, someone using a Surface device for work during the day might use it to play games in the evening, and someone with a OneDrive storage account might use it to save both work files and family photos.
And Microsoft, CEO Nadella has insisted, is uniquely positioned to create products and services that both help users be more productive as well as connect with friends/family and stay entertained.
In a lot of ways, the product announcements that Microsoft made on Monday reflect this mindset. Among other things, Microsoft:
- Rebranded its consumer-focused Office 365 plans as Microsoft 365 plans. The Microsoft 365 plans have much in common with the Office 365 plans they replace, but (like business Microsoft 365 plans) also come with Windows 10 technical support and some security services. Unlike many business Microsoft 365 plans, they don’t come with Windows licenses or enterprise mobility management software.
- Unveiled an overhaul of its Teams collaboration software, which has seen active users soar amid the Covid-19 pandemic, that makes it far more consumer-friendly. Teams users will be able to switch between work and personal accounts, with personal accounts combining traditional Teams features such as chat and voice/video calling with things like photo-sharing and shared family calendars and grocery lists.
- Unveiled several new features for Office apps. Excel will be able to make sense out of data types such as food, movies and chemistry terms; PowerPoint is adding a service that provides tips on improving the spoken part of a presentation; and an AI-powered writing recommendation service that was unveiled last year (it’s now known as Microsoft Editor) will work across Word, Outlook and web browsers going forward.
One common thread across many of these moves is how comfortable Microsoft is about blurring the lines between corporate and consumer software and cloud services.
Everyone from college students to Global 2000 companies will be sold Microsoft 365 plans (even if the plans have a few differences). Teams will be used for both corporate workgroups and family video calls. And though only time will tell how much it’s used for the latter, Excel will be able to both create financial models and calculate nutritional info for meals.
To an extent, such line-blurring isn’t shocking given how the consumerization of enterprise software — that is, the trend of making enterprise software as intuitive and easy to use as popular consumers apps and services — has been gradually progressing for many years. At a time when many enterprise apps have come to look and feel a lot like consumer apps, it makes sense that a larger portion of them will also be consumer apps.
But not many companies have both the consumer reach and the enterprise reach needed to make such efforts worth their while. And fewer still have the product mindset needed to do it.