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With Office for iPad, Nadella says he's 'going where customers are going' Good luck!

Yesterday Microsoft officially launched Office for iPad, making its familiar superheroes of the office productivity suite — Word! Excel! PowerPoint! — available on Apple’s iPad. When the news broke, I was in Boston’s Back Bay at the Harvard Club at the 2014 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum, gearing up along with the rest of post-prandial audience for the next panel discussion — “Balancing new innovations and keeping the business secure.”

To be honest, I didn’t ask the CIOs sitting at my table what they thought of Microsoft’s finally deciding to make its flagship applications — apps designed exclusively for the operating system that launched a gazillion PCs — available on a competitor’s mobile device. I didn’t need to. The enterprise shift to mobile consumer technology is an agony they’ve been living since 2007, the year the iPhone debuted. And it never ends. That much was evident from the numbingly familiar list of questions typed out for the upcoming panel discussion:

  • Which new mobile devices will remain viable tools for business users?
  • How does your organization choose which mobile devices and platforms to support?
  • What security issues do mobile devices present and how are IT departments responding to them?
  • What new technologies will have the biggest impact on business in the year ahead?

When I got home, I watched Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talk about Office for iPad. “It’s not a tradeoff, because it’s about going where our customers are going,” he said. “What motivates us is the reality of our customers.”

Many have remarked that Nadella’s measured tone is a refreshing change from the bombastic cheerleading of former CEO Steve Ballmer, but manner aside, Nadella’s vision for where Microsoft needs to be heading with cloud and mobile also sounds fresh.

As I know from our coverage of social media, mobile computing, analytics and cloud, however, going where your customers are going is both excruciatingly difficult for large organizations and shockingly possible. Difficult, because it is hard for CIOs at large legacy-laden organizations to keep up with consumer product cycles, and easy because there are analytics out there now that can track and predict with startling accuracy what people want.

Sitting at my table was a CIO of a privately owned regional food business, not too large, that is working with Google on personalizing its advertising. The hybrid analytics program leverages Google’s tremendous ability to track what people think they want, based on their browsing habits. When an item  this retailer sells matches up with something a person located near one of its stores is looking for, an offer is pushed out. The process will not only personalize the retailer’s marketing but at some point negate the need for traditional advertising.

But I digress. Check out the lead item in our Searchlight news roundup this week: “With Office for iPad, a recognition that a genius idea has a shelf life.” Sound off in our Comments section. And while you’re there, feel free to browse our front page. We’ll be watching out for you.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, executive editor, or on Twitter at @ltucci

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