- Microsoft is hiring for a new team that a company executive once explained was part of a vision to “win back” the “magic” it lost with customers.
- The company is advertising open roles posted as recently as Thursday for the team, called Modern Life and Devices.
- According to the Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi, this team has operated under the radar since at least 2018 and is now gaining momentum as the company reshapes its strategy to focus on customers as humans with complicated lives and fewer lines between work and personal life.
- Microsoft has been wildly successful selling to enterprise customers but has failed at many consumer products, from the Windows Phone to the Microsoft Band fitness smartwatch.
- The group is an effort to repackage some of Microsoft’s existing products and target consumers such as busy professionals who are familiar with the enterprise side of Microsoft’s business.
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Microsoft is beefing up a new team intended to help the Redmond, Washington-based company win back consumers, recent job postings indicate.
The company is advertising open roles posted as recently as Thursday for Modern Life and Devices, a group that’s operated largely under the radar since at least 2018, when Yusuf Mehdi, who is now running the group, revealed the thesis behind Microsoft’s latest consumer effort at Microsoft’s Inspire conference.
“In the last couple years, we’ve lost a little magic with consumers,” Mehdi said at the time. “This year, we begin the journey to win back consumers with our vision.”
Microsoft has been wildly successful selling to enterprise customers, thanks to products like Azure and Office 365, but the demise of its Windows Phone operating system and the discontinuation of products like the Microsoft Band fitness watch show that it has sometimes struggled to establish itself as a consumer-technology company.
Despite the relative success of the Xbox gaming console and the Surface hardware businesses, Microsoft’s fans have sometimes worried that the company would leave its dedicated consumer fans in the dust as it doubled down on its enterprise strategy. This team’s existence seems to signal a renewed commitment to the consumer space.
Amid its push to renew its appeal to consumers, Microsoft is said to be working on a consumer version of its Microsoft 365 bundle of business applications. ZDNet was the most recent publication to report details about the effort, saying on December 4 that the new service would be called Microsoft 365 Life and released in the spring.
Microsoft declined to comment in response to requests about Microsoft 365 Life, the growing Microsoft Life and Devices team, and the company’s overall consumer strategy.
The Modern Life and Devices team
Job advertisements about for the Modern Life and Devices team help shed some light on the company’s consumer strategy.
The Microsoft Modern Life and Devices business combines Windows products, Microsoft Surface devices, Office 365 consumer services, Outlook, Skype, the voice assistant Cortana, and the search engine Bing into “one of the company’s largest multi-billion-dollar revenue businesses.”
“To drive business growth and engagement with consumers, we must make smart bets on how to optimize, manage and augment our portfolio of products and underlying capabilities,” a job advertisement posted in September said. That ad describes Modern Life and Devices as a “new team.”
It’s unclear how many people Microsoft has hired for the team so far, but a LinkedIn search surfaced 43 users who identify themselves as Microsoft employees with the terms “modern life and devices” in their job titles.
Microsoft and consumers
Mehdi, the head of the group, said in an October 2018 blog post that Microsoft wanted to connect the dots between consumers’ work and personal lives.
“There is a blurring of work and life leading to a feeling of being ‘always on.’ Technology has enabled us to be constantly performing work or personal tasks anytime, anywhere, and with all of the benefits that brings, many of us are unable to find the right balance,” Mehdi wrote. “We believe Microsoft can uniquely help you manage this digital lifestyle by delivering technology that empowers you rather than overwhelms.”
Around that time, Microsoft started forming up this new Modern Life and Devices team, though the Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said it has so far operated under the radar and was only now gaining momentum as the company reshapes its strategy to focus on customers as humans with complicated lives and fewer lines between work and personal life.
“As the world becomes more engaged, users become blended,” Milanesi, who follows Microsoft’s consumer business, said. “I don’t have work and play. I have a blended world.”
Microsoft is no longer looking at customers as either enterprise or consumer, Milanesi said, but as both. Customers, for example, don’t want separate calendars for meetings and soccer practices, but one that combines both in intelligent ways.
The hard part for Microsoft — which historically has had more success with enterprise customers — will be balancing its emphasis on enterprise with consumer products, Milanesi said.
“The question for me remains, ‘Is the consumer part going to play second fiddle to the enterprise part, or are you focusing on one human being with both sides of equal importance?” Milanesi said. “The proof will be in the pudding.”