Today, Eric Eldon from Techcrunch interviewed Tim O’Brien from Mircrosoft, Head of Platform Strategy Group at Le Web 2012 in London. Microsoft made important announcements on Monday June 18th surrounding the Surface entertainment device aimed at overcoming some of the criticisms regarding tablets which are aimed at “consuming” rather than “producing” content and a new conference in will be taking place in a few hours from now (at the time of the writing of this post) in San Francisco and will tackle some of the features on Window phones. Microsoft has, O’Brien explained, chosen to adopt a common design language and the basis is Html5; everything (from mobiles, tablets and up to Windows 8) has been unified around the Metro interface O’Brien explained. Such openness may seem trivial, but it’s not when those words are put in the mouth of a Microsoft executive.
[The Microsoft stand at Le Web 2012 in London, picture by live.orange.com]
What do you do at Microsoft ?
O’Brien described his job as an evangelist as pretty much of a “Peaks and Valleys” kind of job: “Platform evangelism involves a lot of engagement with the engineering teams and we partner with the product teams so that developers and influencers are engaged too and they feel happy”.
Microsoft wooing developers … all developers
[Tim O’Brien and Eric Eldon today at the Le Web conference in London]
In essence, this is the sign of a very important change at Microsoft to gain or regain the hearts of developers who may not be 100% Microsoft developers. “What has changed is that developers are no longer mono language” O’Brien went on to explain. “In the old days, it used to be ‘use this new thing, delay your time to market, throw the old thing away and use this new thing’” O’Brien said. But a lot of changes are taking place today: Microsoft has decided to support open source technologies, and open source standards. This is a sign that it is moving away from a proprietary approach and denotes an important change in philosophy. The challenge Tim O’Brien described, is the following: “how do you take 7-8 million Ms developers and move them into the cloud and how do you take the non MS developers to the Ms world”.
understanding start-up challenges
And this change is the reason why O’Brien was hired. “I used to work in the 32-employee start-up and moved to Microsoft recently” he said. A history which he said “helps [him] understand the challenges that Microsoft has working with start-ups”.
Eldon concluded the panel discussion by asking O’Brien whether Amazon was perceived as a competitor to Microsoft. His answer was that “Amazon is in the infrastructure-tier, and [Microsoft] is in the platform-tier. Each company has a portfolio of things that they want to have on the cloud versus others that they want to keep for themselves”. Regarding the current rumour regarding “Microsoft’s buying Yammer at “$1.2-1.4 bn” : this falls in the realm of speculation O’Brien said.