How Microsoft 365 connects the consumer-professional to ubiquitous computing

The cloud drives Microsoft's narrative for the future of computing. The Windows story of old is still important but is just a link in Microsoft's bigger picture of making itself the world's platform for ubiquitous computing.

I've given context on how Microsoft's cloud strategy will affect users and provided insight into the intelligent edge, Artificial Intelligence, Microsoft Graph and Project Rome which are components of this strategy. Combined with the company's recent reorg Microsoft is making what I've called, "cloud as a cross-platform Super OS", a reality. In fact, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella echoed that metaphor during his Build keynote and referred to the cloud as "the world's computer."

Part of that "computer" is Microsoft 365, a collection of Microsoft cloud-based services where user and company data resides unified by the Microsoft Graph. It's more than data storage, however. It's intelligently interconnected cross-platform information managed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). And like Windows, Surface, and Office, it benefits both professional and personal productivity.

Why Microsoft's 2018 reorg matters to everyone, on every platform

Microsoft 365 as a developer platform

Develop for Microsoft 365

Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Windows, Joe Belfiore (opens in new tab), urged developers to view Microsoft 365 as a developer platform. Why? Microsoft's using Microsoft 365 to thread its productivity platform throughout ecosystems and devices consumers and businesses use. Development of third-party enterprise and consumer apps that connect to Microsoft 365 is key to this vision.

Developers can connect to the rich resource of intelligently connected data in Microsoft 365 via Microsoft Graph. The Graph helps developers "connect the dots (opens in new tab) between people, conversations, schedules and content within the Microsoft Cloud." Once third-party apps and services are connected to Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 the insights AI draws from the data is proactively supplied to those apps or intentionally retrieved by users from any device or platform.

Information about contacts, relationships, calendars, meetings, interactions and much more make professional and personal productivity more efficient through Microsoft 365.

Microsoft's refocusing on the cloud will have personal and far-reaching impacts

Timeline, Sets, Microsoft Launcher

Whether saving and revisiting app and browser activity via Windows Timeline or organizing groups of related content via Sets, Microsoft is making personal and professional workflows more efficient and ubiquitous.

Windows Timeline and eventually Sets for Windows, iOS and Android will allow users' personal or professional workflows to follow them across devices and platforms. The Microsoft Graph stores Timeline and Sets data in the cloud and allows users to pick up where they left off (to varying extents) on other devices and vice versa. This is an example of platform-agnostic cloud-as-the-OS computing or cloud as the world's computer.

Microsoft's also bringing its popular Android Microsoft Launcher to the enterprise with tweaks for security and manageability. Among other things, it will connect users to Microsoft 365.

Outlook, Adaptive Cards, Teams and machine learning

Microsoft Teams Android

Microsoft Teams Android (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft Teams is a multifaceted communication platform within Microsoft 365 that supports Skype, chat, scheduling, Cortana and more. Developers can tailor unique intelligent experiences for business and industry, and companies can submit custom apps to the Team app store that connect to Microsoft 365.

Microsoft's cross-platform mail and calendar app Outlook, used for professional and personal productivity, will now allow users to pay bills directly from the inbox using Microsoft Pay. Furthermore, conversation-based Adaptive Cards will make communicating within Teams and Outlook more efficient.

Finally, developers can use Microsoft's machine learning platform to train custom models in the cloud and drive them to frontline devices, connected to Microsoft 365 on the intelligence edge.

What is Microsoft's intelligent edge and how does it affect mobile?

Professional and consumer appeal

Image credit: Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Jon Friedman, a chief Microsoft designer, demonstrated Microsoft's cross-platform app StaffHub that addresses scheduling and communication issues for frontline workers. Friedman identified that 650 million frontline workers are part of large companies that use Microsoft 365 but didn't connect its benefits to low-wage workers with $600-plus smartphones. StaffHub brings the power of Microsoft 365 to the devices consumers use, and one manager identified its messaging functionality as one of its most used features.

Microsoft 365 is a cloud to edge productivity solution that interconnects systems, platforms and devices. It fits philosophically and pragmatically alongside Microsoft's Surface, Windows and Office productivity strategy that does not distinguish between personal and professional productivity.

Microsoft's wants developers from education, healthcare, defense, retail and other industries to develop for Microsoft 365. Microsoft's unified account authentication ensures that the same tools are accessible to professionals and consumers.

Microsoft's consumer/professional strategy needs serious work

"Your Phone" and Andromeda

Finally, Microsoft's Your Phone, though not cloud-based connects users' iPhones and Android phones to Windows 10 PCs. It allows users to send and receive texts (more limited on iPhone), share pictures from PC to phone and more. Essentially it lets users facilitate phone functions from the PC without having to engage the phone.

Microsoft may be positioning it's rumored Andromeda device, which is a telephony-enabled pocketable PC companion to smartphones, to benefit from Your Phone. With web-based properties being more engaged than apps and Microsofts PWA investments, Microsoft may be strategizing for Andromeda-category cellular PCs to be always connected devices to which iPhone and Android phone functionality are offloaded.

Your Phone fits into Microsoft's ubiquitous computing strategy supported by Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Graph which are pulling the industries devices and platforms together.

Related: If Microsoft is the platform for everything, does it really need a phone?

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

  • Agree with what you are getting at here Jason. Thats for sure. But are you stating in the last of your editorial that they are planning on giving the "andromeda" device the connectivity through your iPhone like I do have now with my Dell computer for "connectivity" duties?
  • Hi Steve I'm not sure if i clearly understand your question. But the last section is simply saying that may position Andromeda to take advantage of new Your Phone functionality. This would decrease a users engagement with thier iPhone/Android phone is users are more inclined to use the larger screen of the Andromeda device for web servicing or other functions ot will support.
  • So you think they will position Andromeda as a laptop replacement, not a phone replacement? Those screens better be very large and WoA far better than the current implementation. Carrying around your phone, laptop and Andromeda doesn't make sense. It needs to totally replace at least one of them.
  • Based on the tidbits from Jason's article, I think Andromeda version 1.0 won't be a phone replacement and it won't be a laptop replacement (for heavy work) either. It will be an ultra portable PC which can replace your tablet. I know many people including myself, carrying 3 devices (official laptop + Phone + Tablet) and this might appeal to them because of the portability, productivity and multi device support features that the device may offer. Once people are comfortable offloading some of their phone usage (text messages, social media and browsing to start with..) to Andromeda and the App Developers get on-board with the "Timeline" Support, MS may introduce "Telephone" capabilities to Andromeda. Hopefully by that time eSIM / 5G / Cloud OS (Project Rome) will be mainstream technology. I think Andromeda version 3.0 could be successful (similar to Surface Pro 3.0) and hopefully it should be able to replace our Phone, Tablet and Laptop. By that time the Windows OEMs, Apple and Google will start copying the design of Andromeda devices. Anyways, I will be buying Andromeda Version 1.0, just like I bought the Surface Pro Version 1.0.
  • Pravin, I agree with your view, a foldable ultra-portable with tablet + phone + capability with pen input (like a Courier!), that would mean my Surface Book would be left at home/office a lot of the time, more than now.
  • Why couldn't you do the same today with a Galaxy Note?
  • It's a galaxy note...enough said.
  • Without proper TOUCH UI,UX and mobile apps, as a tablet is gonna be useless. As a phone again useless because no one would ever ditch their already capable Android or Iphone and as a PC, well, we all saw the simply mediocre performance of the ARM will be another thing for Nadella to abandon...
  • Hi Jason Ward, thanks for writing this article at the right time. I am a small business owner and I'm thinking about switching to Microsoft 365 (Windows 10 + Surface Business + Office 365 Business).
    This article is a nice read and hopefully Microsoft continues to invest in resources so that smaller businesses and startups can access their (MSFT) resources.
  • Ok, Yes, I mean, they are positioning this as something that would use your iPhone for connectivity and messaging/calls like I can do with dell mobile connect now. RohanRon….365 etc is awesome for business. I have everything for my companies on there. I can access it anywhere and am able to do work from anywhere as well!
  • My take: Microsoft Graph is the "kernel" to the Microsoft 365 "operating system." The web, IoT, PC's, phones, mixed reality devices, etc. are the variety of ways of interacting with this new web/cloud OS.
  • Watched all 3 days of Build and not really seeing the consumer draw for MS 365. Makes perfect sense in the enterprise though. We have Office 365 presently and will probably upgrade to MS 365 when we... finally... upgrade to Windows 10. Not in a super hurry to push everything into the MS Graph though. MS has made similar attempts in enterprise in past to make a particular product or service the center of all our worlds. Sharepoint comes immediately to mind. And after almost a 2 decades of that products existence, I haven’t worked somewhere nor do I know anyone who works somewhere where Sharepoint is the hub of everyone’s world. I could be wrong, but not seeing a great wow factor in the MS Graph either. From a purely non tech, contractual, software bundle standpoint though sure MS 365 makes sense to sign onto.
  • A one-man/woman business is a one-man/woman enterprise.
  • Build seemed to cement Microsoft 365 in the enterprise space. Microsoft no longer has a consumer offer so it's made itself irrelevant in that space. If you buy a PC today you get a free OS (from a consumer standpoint). You then connect to consumer services. Mostly that's not Microsoft. Killing mobile really killed their consumer ecosystem. That's OK for an enterprise company. Consumers might have better viewing over at Google IO.
  • Yes. This years I/o was awesome.
  • Oh, and Stephen, That is entirely ok, as long as the main OS on those computers is fast, great, and works as intended. I am fine with using "others" services, like iTunes for my music, corel for my photo/video editing, and others. To be truly great, MS does need to have a consumer presence. They have the Enterprise down....come on MS, smarten up!
  • Jason I always enjoy your articles but I am now left wondering if MS is the "gunna" company. They're Gunna do x, they're gunna do y. So much of the stuff they announce either takes a year to appear or simply does not appear at all. They seem, to my ignorant eye, to be scrambling to recover from the decision to not support their Nokia purchase and the dumping of Windows 10mobile after promising that it would be available on just about all of their handsets. Seriously Jason it seems to me to be another example of "the emperor has no clothes" and in this case it is that Nadella is trying to cover his backside after making the mother of all mistakes in dropping mobile without having a clear, elucidated pathway forward and no, the cloud is not the path, it's just a track in the rest of the non-US world.
  • crack.....HOME RUN...Long Xuyen. You hit it out of the park. That is exactly how I see it too.
  • Have to admit that it will be hard to ever forgive Nadella for killing the Lumia line without having a Surface branded replacement of some variant, Andromeda or straight out Surface Phone. It was a truly scumball move to pull the rug out from under UWP developers who had spilt their blood, sweat, and tears building first Win 8 then Win 10 mobile apps on top of an ecosystem Microsoft had led them to believe would be properly supported. And now he’s just repeating it all with Cortana. You’d have to be pretty gullible to write a Cortana skill right now. Of course he’ll sell lots of Office 365 subscriptions and probably MS 365 subs too, and continue to be a WallStreet darling, but I know I’ll always think of him as a mother that abandoned her children, not the great visionary he bills himself as.
  • "Of course he’ll sell lots of Office 365 subscriptions and probably MS 365 subs too, and continue to be a WallStreet darling". Which is EXACTLY what he is supposed to do. Sell lots of successful products and raise the stock price. Not continue to lose billions on failed products and lost markets. "but I know I’ll always think of him as a mother that abandoned her children" Not abandoning children. It was more of a Sophie's Choice. These very few children (Windows phone users) need to die, so I can concentrate on the VERY MANY business/enterprise children.
  • Firstly, I don't in any way agree with your basic premise that corporations are forced into being purely greed motivated. Secondly, I've had quite enough of the "apologists"... explaining why its so okay for Microsoft to abandon this or abandon that in the name of business, as if it exists in a vacuum, and is the most important entity in the known universe. So frankly my point stands... and yes a lot of dead beat dads and moms use these same excuses to convince THEMSELVES that they had "no choice" in making the cowardly decisions they made. If they couldn't stand the heat of being in the consumer business, then don't get in the business to begin with. Otherwise, be a man, and do the right thing. Lastly... Microsoft has been profitable for some time... Nadella did NOT invent its profitability. He may think he's God's personal gift to Microsoft... saving it from itself, but he's no saviour. I'm certainly not against turning a profit, even a sizable one with Azure, in fact I'm quite for it, but really would it be so bad for Microsoft to use just a portion of their BILLIONS in profits to do the honorable thing and stand behind some of its prior commitments? Stand behind UWP, the MS Store, Cortana, Bing, mobile devices?
  • I think the children analogy is a poor comparison to use. The fact is that when you run a business you need to make profits, so at some point you're at a fork in the road where you choose to try to invest more money and time to get long term gains OR end it. The fact is that we'll never know even if Microsoft did take the other path if it would have made a difference to where they are today. I personally get tired of people always bringing up the same old "if they only did x, y, or z then they wouldn't be in the place they are at today."
  • I go back to what my dad always taught me... let your yes mean yes... Finish what you start... A man's word is his honor. Nobody's asking them to become a non-profit charity, but if that means making a few less BILLIONS per quarter than they would otherwise then so be it.
  • MS has no honor, Nadella has no honor and all their words cannot be trusted! Ever! Champions of lies
  • "Greed" has nothing to do with anything. Corporations exist to make a profit for everyone involved. Period. Also, stop thinking in emotional terms. "Mothers abandoning children" is the worst analogy you can make. This is BUSINESS. Business has nothing to do with emotions. Everything HAS to be geared to growing the business. "Otherwise, be a man, and do the right thing." He DID the right thing, as a CEO. Has nothing to do with "being a man". A woman CEO would have made the same decisions, for the same reasons. Again, business, not emotions. He is positioning the company for future growth. Not maintaining past failures. He is not emotionally tied to the past failures, as you appear to still be. Are you emotionally invested in any other products? Do you get upset when Wendy's drops an item from its menu that you liked? Do you care when Toyota drops a car model because you were "invested in the ecosystem"? Why all the tears over a failed phone? Just move on. Its just a thing. Replace it with a better thing. I did, and I am much happier now.
  • I am also in Long Xuyen's camp. I agree with others too about Windows mobile. I live in the US but there are many...Most of the places I go, are where I cannot make a internet connection without a Sat phone or waiting for the motel that evening. I don't own a Sat phone so the motel is my only option. I love the internet... when I can get it. Microsoft, the "Smoke and Mirror's" company!
  • Hi Long, yes Microsoft, I agree is in a very tough spot primarily of its own making. It's doing some good things, but mistakes of the past and some enduring "habits" are having longing lasting affects.
  • :))) Wow, how we've missed your original articles Jason :)) While delusional as always, I can't blame you :)
  • Mmgn, reporting analysis on what a company is doing is not delusional. Who knows if it will succeed or fail, I make no claims either way. Microsoft is doing something, I present analysis on what that something is😉. That's not delusional at all.😉
  • MMGN, I joke around on here a lot, but besides his WAY off the mark Wharton Brooks stroking, Jason's articles are really good.
  • Thanks Steve. I think. :-D LOL