Thursday, July 10, 2014

Productivity for What?

The headline for Mary Jo Foley's latest post to her All About Microsoft blog on ZDNet is:
Microsoft CEO Nadella: 'We will reinvent productivity'
What does this mean? On the surface is seems to mean that Steve Ballmer's "devices and services" mantra will be replaced by "productivity and platforms." Foley included the following quote from Satya Nadella:
At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.
The thing about such proclamations is that a flood of buzzwords can be meaningless as easily as it can be prophetic. Foley's article does not suggest which way this particular tower will be leading. However, there was another sentence later in her piece that gave me pause:
Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.
Was this meant to suggest that the Xbox will have more impact on future worker productivity than, say (for the sake of argument), Office?

The bottom line is that you cannot go off and claim you are improving productivity without some sense of the work practices that need your benefits. It is very hard to tell from Foley's piece just what those work practices are or, for that matter, whether they are now the sorts of work practices we need to worry about in a country that still has not gotten itself out from under its unemployment crisis. This may ultimately be a problem for which the solution will reside in a domain other that innovative technology, meaning that any Kool-Aid from Microsoft will be either an ineffective placebo or a seriously toxic substance.

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