It’s refreshing to see the direction Microsoft has been taking lately given the change in leadership! Satya Nadella, since taking over for Steve Balmer in February 2014 is focused on “Mobile first. Cloud first.” That sounds simple enough, right? But what does “mobile first” mean exactly? If you immediately thought of a phone or tablet – you’re half-right! Nadella is not only referring to mobile devices, but he was speaking to the mobility of hardware around the user; for example: devices like the Microsoft Band and the Apple Watch that measure health data, along with interactions between users and wifi-enabled thermostats like the Nest – and WeMos! Similarly, the phrase “developing for the cloud” is the catchy, digestible marketing department wording, but what does that really mean? Satya often refers to “ambient intelligence,” or the ability for these devices to learn what we like and serve data to us that is contextual and personal.
Microsoft is moving away from releasing features and functionality every two to three years and opting for a more agile method of releasing products using Minimal Viable Product methodologies made popular by Bill Gates. Minimal Viable Products are the smallest product you can release, they are complete but almost featureless; most importantly, their functionality is extended based on measured user data. And Microsoft has invested heavily in utilizing anonymous user data: “ambient intelligence – cloud first.” Minimal viable products will continue to be the focus moving forward, which will allow them to release at a very rapid pace. At the time of writing, it’s not uncommon to get one or two new product features deployed to office 365 per day.
The new video portal is one example of Microsoft’s aggressive release schedule and was deployed as a Minimal Viable Product. At the time of this writing it allows users to upload videos to a central location and provides an easy mechanism for playback. That’s about it. But Microsoft will learn how people are using this product and release features that drive popular use cases. This video portal is just the tip of a much larger iceberg that is slowly emerging from Microsoft’s product stack. Office Graph and Delve are more examples of recently released products that should be thought of as facades to much larger components.
Even more Portals are on the way. “NextGen Portals” as Microsoft refers to them, will leverage Office Graph to deliver personalized information to users; the recently released Video Portal is an out-of-the-box video portal that was designed from the ground up to be social, mobile, and intelligent. Video is now a first-class citizen in corporate communications. (Here’s a quick plug for West Monroe Partner’s YouTube Channel.) According to Gartner, by 2016 large companies will require their employees to watch 16 hours of video per month.
The Video portal is currently available only to First Release customers at the moment, but will be rolled out “early calendar year 2015” according to Microsoft. It is limited in features at the moment, but the simple act of using it provides usage metrics and anonymous information to Microsoft that will make it better over time.
The first of Microsoft’s NextGen portals, the Video Portal, allows companies to deliver relevant business information and updates via video clips. Each video page has tight integration with Yammer, which enables the social platform and helps to provide a sense of community. The Video portal is responsive, which allows video playback on mobile devices. Channels are available, and are customizable. Video recommendations are powered by Office Graph and other ambient intelligence that is collected.
One of the more astounding features is the ability to have your videos transcoded via Azure Media Services in real-time, which means that your video experience is tailored to your mobile device as well as your available bandwidth; this is a key concept, and a differentiator to other content management systems that are currently able to store and play video; because having your video efficiently streamed over your corporate network has always been the crux of the issue.
So, as Microsoft continues to further refine its core values to “mobile-first and cloud-first,” they will be better positioned to deliver products more frequently; which allows Microsoft to deliver core solutions, like the Video Portal to customers that have a need for a specific platform challenges.
Please contact Rick Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kaumil Dalal (email@example.com) for more information on how we can work with you build smarter web experiences with an enterprise social element around the Microsoft ecosystem.