- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that people use their smartphones more for consumption than for creation, creating an imbalance.
- He says that he sees an opportunity for Microsoft’s Teams workplace chat app to help balance things out, by providing something like a social network that helps people collaborate on actually getting things done.
- “What is perhaps not there, is that…intimate circle,” Nadella said. “How do I collaborate, communicate, form relationships with that? And so that’s another dimension that we would want to think deeply about and continue to.”
- While he doesn’t think Teams will take on the huge thriving social networks already in place, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there is room for a social media network to focus on building private social networks, similar to the way people used Skype.
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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says that when it comes to how we use our smartphones and other gadgets, things are way out of whack. In his view, these devices are more often used for consumption — watching videos, or scrolling through Facebook or Twitter — than for production, or getting things done.
For Nadella, that’s a challenge, opportunity, and responsibility all at the same time.
“It’s new habits that we will have to instigate in changing that balance. And I’m not, again, saying one thing is bad, one thing is good, but we feel that as a company, we need to think about that balance,” Nadella said at a press event on Monday.
Microsoft’s fast-growing workplace chat app, Teams, is big piece of Microsoft’s play to address this. Nadella said he sees an opportunity for Teams to act as a bridge between the consumer-focused world of social media, and the idea to actually get things done.
Teams is a major priority for Microsoft: This weekend, Microsoft will debut a big new ad campaign that aims to sell the app on “the powers of teams.” This marketing push comes just months after Microsoft shared that Teams crossed the milestone of 20 million daily active users — more than its chief Silicon Valley rival, Slack, which had 12 million at last count.
Nadella said while he doesn’t think Teams will take on the huge thriving social networks already in place, like Facebook, Twitter, or Microsoft’s own LinkedIn, there is room for some kind of app specifically designed to help people connect to each other to get work done.
“What is perhaps not there, is that…intimate circle,” Nadella said. “How do I collaborate, communicate, form relationships with that? And so that’s another dimension that we would want to think deeply about and continue to.”
Nadella drew a comparison between Teams and Skype, the Microsoft-owned video calling app, because they both focus on one-to-one conversations, or chats between smaller groups of people.
“Skype originally has always been the most intimate social network. People you Skyped with are people with whom you really had a real connection,” Nadella said, echoing Microsoft’s previous comments on the role of Skype in its lineup of products.
Microsoft has argued along similar lines before: When Microsoft Teams first launched in 2017, the company said that it was for the “inner loop” of people you work with every day, while Yammer — the Facebook-like news feed for the workplace that Microsoft acquired in 2012 — is for the “outer loop” of people you work with outside your own team.
At the same time, Microsoft’s competition isn’t going to let the company take this market without a fight.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has criticized Teams, saying its growth is not organic and that Microsoft uses “unsportsmanlike” tactics to compete in the workplace productivity space. Slack also highlights figures that suggest users are highly-engaged with its app, implying that customers actually enjoy using it.
On a final note, Microsoft clearly has social networks on the brain: At the same event where Nadella made his comments, Nat Friedman, the CEO of GitHub, described the Microsoft-owned code sharing site as “the most valuable social network that’s ever been built,” thanks to its popularity with programmers.
Nicholas Carlson contributed reporting to this story.
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