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Opinion & Analysis

Nadella: Why I chose Kenya for Windows 10 global launch

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. PHOTO | AFP
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. PHOTO | AFP 

Microsoft on Wednesday launched its highly anticipated Windows 10 operating system.

Billed by the by the tech giant as “the best Windows ever”, the company aims to have one billion devices running on the software. It is built to run across laptops, desktops and smartphones.

Chief executive Satya Nadella came to Kenya a day ahead of the global launch. NTV’s Larry Madowo had a conversation with the Microsoft boss on why he chose Kenya as well as his views on the company’s latest product, innovation and what the future holds for tech.

Here is the excerpts of the interview.

Of all the places, why are you in Nairobi?

I’m here in Kenya and in Nairobi to listen and learn. The core mission of Microsoft is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.

I felt that in order to realise that mission with the Windows 10 launch we wanted to celebrate with our fans all over the world instead of going to a media-rich country.

We wanted to go out there where our fans are because we are a truly global product and we have usage everywhere. I wanted to come (personally) to Kenya because I felt this was a place where I needed to be to learn.

This morning I had a chance to spend some time in Nanyuki, this afternoon and evening I’ll spend it with Windows 10 fans at a party in Nairobi (Arboretum).

So what did you learn in Nanyuki?

One of the most exciting things for us is to see how even in rural parts of Kenya local entrepreneurs and students benefit from access to Internet and devices.

So we’ve partnered with a local entrepreneur there to provide access solutions using some technology that was developed with Microsoft research around TV whitespace (space between TV channels); In essence, how to use TV whitespace to deliver last mile connectivity in a rural area.

The magic happens once you have connectivity. Students now can improve their grades.

This morning I had a chance to visit a couple schools in Nanyuki who in fact were incidentally upgrading to Windows 10 and helped with the upgrade.

But the fascinating thing is that there were students learning about electromagnetic induction off of the Internet. People learning how to write and compose things using computers and improve their grades.

I also had a chance to meet a Windows insider in Nanyuki who was one of the five million people who helped us, gave us feedback and tested Windows all along the way.

That gentleman is now a local entrepreneur and teaching other youths how to use the Internet to find jobs and be freelancers like him.

Windows 10, unlike what you’ve done before, will be available as a free upgrade. Since you’re losing all that revenue that came from selling licences, what is the idea behind this?

You have to have a long-term view of revenue. We felt it was better for us to get Windows 7 and Windows 8 users on Windows 10 at a fast pace so they can benefit from the free upgrade.

In the long run we will benefit because the eco-system of Windows will be healthier when everyone is using the latest and greatest. I’ll always go for the long-term value versus any short-term economic issue.

This upgrade has better integration between tablets, mobile devices and PCs. Are you trying to make sure you capture a wider audience?

The view I have is that Windows 10 isn’t just another release of Windows but is the beginning of a new era of Windows.

We are building Windows now for all the devices in your life. Increasingly, we have more than one device; you may have a phone, a tablet, a PC and in the future we may have a wearable around the wrist, eyes or ears.

If there’s going to be one thing true in the years to come, we will have more computing and more personal computing in our lives. We are building Windows 10 for that future.

What is the future for the devices business? What Microsoft inherited with the acquisition of Nokia, especially with the latest announcement of over 7,000 job cuts. Is Nokia dead?

I don’t view what we’re doing in the phones in isolation. I view what we’re doing with the phones, tablets and the holographic computers as one family of devices — all built to invigorate the Windows ecosystem.

That’s why the changes we announced were more to do with operationally changing how we go about our business instead of thinking of phones as a distinct business.

We’re committed to phones being a key part of what we do and we recognise we have a lot of work to do in growing our phone share, but as we have a lot of users on the desktop and the fact that we can build applications for Windows now once and have it run everywhere is a big advantage.

The market seems to think Microsoft has given up on the phones business. To me it’s not about giving up on one line of work, it’s about making sure that we are prepared for what’s coming next.

Because any time you find yourself in a situation where you have low share, you not only have to participate in that market but you also have to participate in the future.

So when I look at more personal computing and the fact that there are new things that will be invented, I want to make sure that Windows 10 is not viewed only as a phone operating system or only as a PC operating system but as an OS for all the devices in your life.

Let’s talk about emerging markets. You have, for instance, the 4Afrika initiative here. Are there specific initiatives aimed for this side of the market that differ from say the ones made for America and Europe?

I believe that’s the future for us and I think the future for any company that’s looking to grow. Our goal is to create global platforms that allow for local innovation. What we talked about in Nanyuki is local innovation both in terms of solutions and connectivity.

I had a chance to meet with many start-ups in Nairobi building fantastic local solutions. M-Kopa was one of them that’s built on a cloud but offering very, very unique solutions for the market here in terms of reducing the carbon footprint and improving solar energy.

To me that kind of innovation is what we want foster in emerging markets like Kenya.

What do you see as the future generally in the next 5 to 10 years?

One of the ways I like to describe the world we live in today from a technology paradigm is a “mobile first, cloud first” world.

I have a very distinctive point of view when I say mobile first; it’s not the mobility of one single device, it’s really the mobility of the human experience across all the devices in your life.

You’re going to interact with sensors that are there in your conference room or living room. The idea that you’re going to be mobile across all your devices and that your data moves with you is only going to be possible because of the cloud, and that cloud better respect you privacy.

It’s something that you should have transparency and trust not only with the end user but even the local governments.

So that is the infrastructure that is the paradigm with which we are building and that’s what I think will play out in the next 5 years.

The interview was transcribed by Lynette Mukami.

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