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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on the business of Windows

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Filed under:Microsoft wants to make Windows 11 more flexible and openWe’ve got a special episode of Decoder today — I’m talking to Satya Nadella, the CEO and chairman of Microsoft. Satya’s always been one of my favorite tech execs to talk to, and Microsoft has some big news for us to discuss: it announced Windows 11 yesterday, which comes with an all-new design, a bunch of new features, and the ability to run Android apps.That’s all wrapped up in some big changes to how apps are distributed on Windows: Microsoft is opening up the Windows app store, allowing developers to put more kinds of apps in the store, and it’s allowing developers to bypass the fees in the store if they want to use their own payment systems.If you’ve been listening to Decoder, you know there’s a lot of controversy about Apple’s App Store fees and the control it has over developers on its platforms. Nadella and Microsoft are explicitly positioning Windows as the opposite, saying it’s more open and that the goal of Windows is to allow other companies to build big businesses and platforms of their own without Microsoft getting in the way. And I definitely wanted to know about the decision to run Android apps on Windows.A couple notes: Satya talks about Azure and “the edge” a lot. I do think that operating systems are important, but they’re important in so far as they compose with everything else that’s part of my life, whether it’s other devices with other operating systems, [or] whether it is clouds that I use, which are powering some of the applications and experiences. We came out of the pandemic with — I would say — a renewed sense of why we need to do some of our very best work in serving [the] customers we have today.That’s why I think about improvements to Windows Update. But that said, if I go back to your decision-making framework [question], I think I have a better appreciation coming out of this pandemic about Windows’ role in the world. And also, what should its innovation vector be given where the world is going?That brings me to some of the big changes in Windows, which are fundamentally about what kind of operating system Windows is going to be and what kind of businesses you can run on it and what kind of business will that be for Microsoft.There is a new user interface. But you’re also allowing Android apps to run on Windows. To me, how do we make Windows more vibrant going forward?I sense a real opportunity, because the other two ecosystems that are at scale, for their own internally consistent set of reasons, have conflated — at least in my mind — the platform and the aggregation layer with one set of rules. That’s Apple’s business model.You also give Windows away. They have to be long-term stable.In our case at Microsoft, I’ve always felt that, at least the definition of a platform is: if something bigger than the platform can’t be born, then it’s not a platform.The web, it grew up on Windows. The Edge team wants Edge to be the default browser in Windows.How do you balance that internal pressure against wanting to be an open platform where competitors can succeed against Microsoft’s own products?There are two different things. But if somebody else can come in and create lots of value on our platform and use it as the base infrastructure, [at the] OS level, so be it — including the store.By the way, that’s how we run our cloud. If there are things that are independent of the operating system, then others can absolutely substitute without compromising the integrity of the system.Even communications — whether it’s Slack, or Zoom, or anything else — [they] can be first class on Windows. And now it’s going to be driven by what is the adoption, what are the use cases, what apps do they want to use that are Android on Windows versus PWAs versus UWPs and what have you. One of the ways I look at this is you can light an Android app or a PWA app or a UWP app on Windows in the future, or even today, for some of the new AI APIs. At Microsoft we build for iOS, we build for Android, we build for Windows. We’re trying to make sure that as developers, we can leverage as much of the common code base, as much of the cloud, but at the same time, be native on each platform.Android apps now run on Android, they run on Chrome OS, they’re going to run on Windows. Do you see them becoming sort of the lowest common denominator application environment for a developer that just wants to hit everything, without some of those opportunities that native development brings?I think whether it is the web or Android, [it] gets you to multiple places faster, and then you optimize on those platforms based on what your users tell you, because the last thing anybody wants is an app that’s there, but nobody’s using, or nobody’s liking. What’s going to make this great?I’m mostly interested in seeing what app developers start doing once they have traction on Windows with an Android app. You said at the event other Android app stores are welcome to participate in delivering to Windows. It’s all of the things that one expects in an app store today that gives you the peace of mind that somebody is going to curate the apps, look at the security of the apps, and then make it easy for you to find the apps you want. Do you think Microsoft is going to come under fire for the things it does with Azure or the things it does in Windows?Whatever rules they come up with will apply to everybody who is an industry participant. So I think that’s where people are going to look at it from a legislative perspective and say, “Hey, what set of rules allow for the most amount of surplus to get created in the broader economy?” And that’s a good thing.I think competition has always been the best thing that helps capitalism move forward, and we will be subject to the same set of rules that everybody else will be.You mentioned ecosystems, and I want to ask you about the broader ecosystem that Microsoft plays in. One example: the PC has always stood for that very broad design surface area in terms of what could one do, whether it’s silicon innovation, board-level innovation, ASICs, the way they can get assembled, what Nvidia has done with GPUs. That is what led us to build amazing gaming PCs, amazing laptops, desktops, what have you.I think in the next 10 years, when we look at it — what is the system on package that Pat likes to talk about? I look at Intel innovating, Qualcomm innovating, AMB innovating, and Nvidia innovating, and say, “I want to do a great job of bringing all that innovation to life through Windows, and then surfacing it to developers.” You bring your UWP, you bring your PWA, you bring your Android app, use Windows to light up on that silicon innovation.

As said here by Nilay Patel