Crowded cloud: Microsoft

20. July 2017

Date: 20-07-2017
Source: The Economist

Today the world’s largest software company reports earnings for the second quarter. Its share price is at an all-time high, elevated by expectations that the chief executive, Satya Nadella, will continue to transform the company and develop new business lines.

Mr Nadella, who is enthusiastic about artificial intelligence (AI), wants Microsoft to become an “AI-first” firm. He has pumped more time and money into Azure, its cloud-computing business, hopeful that it will account for much of the firm’s future growth.

But the company faces stiff competition from deep-pocketed rivals, such as Amazon and Google. Jefferies, an investment bank, reckons Azure will chalk up around $5bn in sales in 2017, or 21% of the market—an impressive sum but far less than Amazon Web Services, with 71%. Investors will be looking for clues as to how much new cloud business Microsoft has won. When expectations are great, even good results can disappoint.


What will business technology look like tomorrow?

13. July 2017

Date: 13-07-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: A new way to work

Two experts from MIT analyse the business implications of our digital future

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future. By Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. W.W. Norton; 402 pages; $28.95 and £22.99.

IN 2014 Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published “The Second Machine Age”. The book was a balanced portrait of how new digital technologies were poised to improve society, even as they increased unemployment and depressed wages. In their latest work, “Machine, Platform, Crowd”, the authors seek to explain the business implications behind these developments.

Mr McAfee and Mr Brynjolfsson believe that the latest phase of computers and the internet have created three shifts in how work happens. The first is artificial intelligence (AI): a move from man to machine. In the past people worked with computers and, at the same time, were augmented by them: what the authors call the “standard partnership”. But that model is breaking down as computers improve and take more control.

You need only look at self-driving cars, online language translation and Amazon’s prototype cashierless shops to see that something big is happening. Digital technologies used to be applied to information—first numbers and text, and, later, music and video. Now, the digital technologies are invading the physical world.

For instance, designing a “heat exchanger”, a part in appliances like refrigerators, means balancing many different specifications and constraints. Humans settle for one that works well enough because to find the optimal one is too hard. But new “generative design” means AI-infused software can run zillions of tiny permutations to find the best possible design—one that a human might not come up with. And with 3D printing, those designs might be shared, modified and manufactured anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »


A CEO’s Guide to Leading Digital Transformation

9. June 2017

This article is part of an ongoing series exploring changes in the workplace and in the nature of work. The first piece explored 12 megatrends, such as automation, big data, demographics, and diversity, that are revolutionizing the way work gets done. Subsequent publications will explore digital governance, talent, and culture.

The success of a transformation depends on an organization’s leaders, especially the CEO. In digital transformations, the CEO is even more critical because of the magnitude of change, the degree of disruption, and the power of inertia.

Digital transformation requires new ways of working, not just new technology. The scarcest resource at many companies is not necessarily technological know-how but leadership. Leaders need the ability to sift through an avalanche of digital initiatives, manage accelerating innovation cycles, and reshape the organization around new approaches such as agile.

Here are five golden rules of digital transformation for CEOs to follow. Read the rest of this entry »


Companies Look to Make a Quantum Leap With New Technology

7. May 2017

Date: 07-05-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Volkswagen is among a growing number of firms experimenting with quantum computing to push their businesses forward

Companies have started to tap into quantum computing, like this D-Wave 2000Q System, in an effort to gain a competitive edge.

Quantum mechanics has fascinated, confounded and even alarmed scientists for nearly a century with the notion that particles can exist in two states at once and communicate with each other across vast distances. The underlying science that Albert Einstein famously called “spooky” could soon become one of modern computing’s core tenets.

Computers that utilize quantum mechanics are moving beyond pure scientific research and inching toward the commercial sector, with companies such as Volkswagen AG beginning to harness their unprecedented power to solve complex problems in nanoseconds.

“This technology is not futuristic,” said Martin Hofmann, Volkswagen chief information officer, who oversees information technology for the group’s 12 brands including Audi , Porsche and Bentley. “It’s a question of years until it’s commercialized, and investing right now in the technology is a big competitive advantage.”

Companies including D-Wave Systems Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. have been pioneering quantum computing, and experts say that within five years the technology could be powerful enough to solve new classes of problems that are currently beyond the grasp of even supercomputers. Read the rest of this entry »


What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft

17. March 2017

Date: 16-03-2017
Source: The Economist

The world’s biggest software firm has transformed its culture for the better. But getting cloud computing right is hard

A DECADE ago, visiting Microsoft’s headquarters near Seattle was like a trip into enemy territory. Executives would not so much talk with visitors as fire words at them (one of this newspaper’s correspondents has yet to recover from two harrowing days spent in the company of a Microsoft “brand evangelist”). If challenged on the corporate message, their body language would betray what they were thinking and what Bill Gates, the firm’s founder, used often to say: “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.” Read the rest of this entry »


How AI Is Transforming the Workplace

13. March 2017

Date: 13-03-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Artificial intelligence is changing the way managers do their job—from who gets hired to how they’re evaluated to who gets promoted

The growing use of AI in the workplace raises many questions. Among them: Is it too intrusive?

Move over, managers, there’s a new boss in the office: artificial intelligence.

The same technology that enables a navigation app to find the most efficient route to your destination or lets an online store recommend products based on past purchases is on the verge of transforming the office—promising to remake how we look for job candidates, get the most out of workers and keep our best workers on the job. Read the rest of this entry »


Indian outsourcing specialists must reboot their strategies

21. January 2017

Date: 19-01-2017
Source: The Economist

IT firms need an upgrade in the face of technological and political shifts

COMPUTERS slow as they age, and before long must be replaced by newer models. Something similar is true of the business models of Indian IT firms. Specialised in running global companies’ outsourced back-offices, the likes of Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) used to be national champions growing at double-digit rates. Their prospects have dimmed of late; an entire industry built on the back of globalisation is fretting about the incoming American president. But Donald Trump is merely the latest threat to their operating systems.

Over three decades, Indian IT has become a $140bn industry built on a simple proposition: rich-country companies could trim costs by getting tedious behind-the-scenes IT work done by cheap engineers in India. The Indian firms hoovered up bright graduates—the big three have over 700,000 employees in total—paying them starting salaries of $5,000 or so, a decent local wage. After gaining some experience, tens of thousands were dispatched to client sites in Europe or America, along with a few expensive local staff. The rest ensured their clients’ computer systems kept ticking over from cosy cubicles in Bangalore, Hyderabad and elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »