Moving Forward with Microsoft

A new look at Microsoft’s direction with Rukmani Subramanian

With the announcement of new innovations from Microsoft such as Windows 10, Surface 3 and the HoloLens, took some time to have a one-to-one session with Rukmani Subramanian, Chief Marketing and Operations Officer in Microsoft Malaysia, to see what Microsoft is up to.

Microsoft Malaysia - Rukmani It has been slightly over a year since you’ve started in Microsoft Malaysia, so how has the journey been so far?

Rukmani: Firstly, it’s a great country, I love the warm weather, I love swimming in the sun, I love the spicy food so it’s a great journey from that perspective. On a more serious note, I came to this market because I believe in the potential of this market. I’ve learnt that I probably underestimated the potential and there is a lot more that can happen in this market. I’m amazed at the potential I see everyday. Been here for 12 months, talk to a lot of customers and partners, and in every conversation, the momentum in the market towards taking it to a more developed economy is just amazing. From the appetite I’m seeing, both the customers and the partners wanting to transform is very, very fascinating.

Coming from a developed market, the growth potential of an emerging market is what fascinates me the most. It also comes with a lot of unique opportunities in terms of access to technology like distribution, like quality education and healthcare, piracy rates, acceptance around cloud computing especially in sectors like government. If I were to sum it up, I would say two things: high potential in the market, a lot of appetite to transform and compete in a global market, and also some unique opportunities that we tackle at a very accelerated pace to unleash that potential. Since Microsoft has been in Malaysia for quite a long time, hasn’t there been enough education and transfer of information on what Microsoft is all about?

Rukmani: Technology is an industry that is the most fast changing. We get outdated every other year, the journey the industry is on is at a very new place. Mobility is key. And that mobility is enabled by cloud. Every user has more than one device. Your smartphone today has probably more computing power than your PC did when Microsoft started. You want to do things from everywhere. I am trying to do my office work as I stand in the grocery shop, or sitting in office accessing my son’s school records. So everybody wants to do everything everywhere. So we are equipping ourselves to cope with our customers, to equip our customers to cope with their customers in the new market reality, which is digital everything. You are holding the post of both CMO and Operations Officer in the Microsoft Malaysia. Could you share some of the areas that fall under your purview?

Rukmani:Today I have all the product groups in Microsoft under my team. Which are both business function as well as product marketing. I have PR, traditional marketing, competitive strategy, and customer partner experience, business planning and operations as well as audience marketing. That’s kind of my portfolio. Do you sleep?

Rukmani: (laughs) A lot. I have a very effective team that makes my life very easy. What do you think about Microsoft before and Microsoft now? What are your comments on issues such as open source, and the slew of products coming out faster than ever before?

Rukmani: Recognition of the market change reality has also pushed Microsoft to evolve, to be a company with a challenger mindset that wants to move aggressively. And you see all this reflected in the innovation agenda that is coming through. Think of some of the recent announcements that have come through recently: office on Android and iOS, Windows going free, and that is recognition of a changed customer reality. It’s like saying, we need to be where our customer is. We need to serve our customers better, and optimising for that knowing that our customers are across multiple platforms.

It is not about an OS for your phone, or your PC, or your console. It’s Windows 10, and hey, we will run on any device you are on regardless whether it is embedded on your fridge, or running it on your phone. And that makes developers and partner experiences very interesting. You build once, and it runs everywhere, which is not what anybody else can say. Is there any reason why this wasn’t adopted before?

Rukmani: We learned along the way. It’s like an evolution on how you come about with products. Like Apple had its MacBook first, iOS, had an app strategy on iOS but still doesn’t work on MacBook. Similarly, we started off with different application platforms for phones, for the PC, and the tablet, and then we realise we are taking huge amount of time, because your data cannot be ported. You are restrained by the device you carry when instead, it should be seamless. Right now I can work on my surface pro 3, and then continue on my Lumia. It may sound simple, but there is a lot of engineering work at the back to do it. With Windows 10, how do you see Microsoft business model changing?

Rukmani: The new Microsoft you are going to see is we want to be THE productivity and platform company for the new world, which is mobile first, cloud first. When people think productivity, they quickly think application, whereas I am talking about experience here, not any specific application. As a user, you want to get a lot done with least hassle. Whether at home, work or somewhere while moving in between. We want to be that productivity company. When we say we want to be a platform company, we want to harmonise what a user wants, what a developer wants, and what an IT group wants. What is the underlying reason Microsoft is going into the device market?

Rukmani: Firstly, we are about customer choice. Our core fundamental philosophy has never changed. We have a great OS and we are enabling a whole ecosystem of devices on that OS. That ecosystem ranges all form factors. To us, the Surface is a great showcase of what you can get with Windows. It’s not meant to be in competition with OEM or third party devices, but to coexist and increase the assortment of Windows 10 while giving Microsoft a first party showcase that stretch the boundaries of device innovation on what can be done on the OS. Let’s talk about the HoloLens. What was the thought process for Microsoft to come up with the HoloLens?

Rukmani: The previous generation of interface was called the GUI, the next is the NUI where you don’t have to learn how technology interacts, but how technology learn how you interact. Very different philosophies. We have been doing a bunch of innovations on the NUI, to see if we can interact with technology the same way we interact with each other. Look at Kinect or Cortana. They are able to take gestures and voice commands, able to get intelligent about you based on interactions with you, to learn and anticipate. Last question. When is the Xbox One coming in to Malaysia?

Rukmani: We are working on it. We still don’t have anything to share yet.

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