Microsoft has pinned its hopes for the future on cross-platform office productivity solutions. And while the software giant has made tremendous progress getting new and existing productivity apps on popular mobile platforms, it’s not stopping there. Over the past several months, Microsoft has been busy gobbling up related businesses that make productivity apps and services. And it looks like it just bought another one, LiveLoop.
Microsoft is most famous these days for its “mobile first, cloud first” mantra. But underlying this confusing message is a more important differentiator for the software giant, a more concise way of explaining how the company excels and, indeed, why it exists at all: to make its customers’ lives more fulfilling by making them more productive.
And don’t limit this term to spreadsheets and word processing documents. This isn’t productivity with a small ‘p’, it’s productivity writ large.
“We don’t think of productivity as some narrow thing you do at work,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in late 2014. “We think of productivity as the core driver of the use of technology to create fulfillment in individual lives and drive economic gain for organizations and entire economies. We want to empower people and organizations to get things done and make things happen. That is the essence of Microsoft.”
So, yes, productivity can mean traditional productivity, using time-worn and proven applications like those in Microsoft Word. It can mean scheduling, and meetings, and phone calls. And you can look at the changes coming in Windows 10 in this light, too: if traditional PC users are more productive with a Start menu—instead of a touch-friendly full-screen Start experience—well, they can have that too.
But productivity can also mean using Cortana voice commands to find your way in the world more efficiently. Using the sensor-laden Microsoft Band to measure your fitness and provide meaningful guidance about how you can improve. Or using Skype Translator to communicate with someone half a world away, even though the other person speaks a completely different language.
Microsoft wants to own productivity in the same way that Apple owns mobile hardware, and Google owns Internet search. It wants individuals and businesses alike to think “Microsoft” when they want to be more productive and efficient, and more enabled, no matter the situation. And in reaching for this very achievable goal, it has had to change the way it does things.
The focus on the Microsoft brand—which I wrote about recently in Microsoft Has One Brand to Rule Them All—is part of the change. So is last year’s almost spastic series of releases of Office mobile apps on Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad). And so, too, is the firm’s pushing at the boundaries of what it means to be productive with non-traditional productivity solutions like Office Sway and Office Mix for individuals—and Office Graph and Office Delve for businesses.
To completely own productivity, of course, Microsoft can’t do it all. We live in an age of great forward progress, with companies large and small pushing their own often-excellent solutions for mobile app- and web-based productivity. And those companies are now on notice: you will either by purchased by Microsoft and subsumed into the giant productivity engine it is creating. Or you will be left by the wayside.
There have been several such acquisitions over the past few months, and some have had profound impact on Microsoft’s products and services already. The biggest, perhaps, is Accompli: Microsoft purchased this firm for its excellent mobile app in December and decided to replace all of its Outlook mobile apps—on Windows, Windows Phone, Android and iOS—with this app. Microsoft also purchased Sunrise, which made a highly-regarded web and mobile app calendar, to integrate that technology—most notably its extensibility support—into the new Outlook as well.
And now Microsoft is purchasing a company called LiveLoop too. LiveLoop is to PowerPoint what Acompli was to Outlook, a modern cloud- and mobile app-centric way to share PowerPoint presentations. Microsoft already solutions for this in place. But it needs to own productivity, and LiveLoop offers a better—more productive—way to do this.
“LiveLoop is the easiest way to share PowerPoint presentations,” the company’s web site explains, alongside a note indicating that the standalone service is going away as of April. “LiveLoop converts presentations into Web URLs that can be viewed from any computer or phone without installing any software. Don’t bother with GoToMeeting or join.me — a single click will get everyone synchronized to the same slide.”
LiveLoop, the site explains, is about “working smarter.” Sounds like the perfect fit for the new Microsoft.