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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in Seattle today. (GeekWire Photo)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed a wide variety of topics at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon today, speaking broadly about his vision for the company and its place in the Seattle region.

But even in the midst of some friendly questioning, one topic was unavoidable: How can Microsoft dig itself out of this giant hole in smartphones and tablets?

Or, as Seattle Chamber President and CEO Maud Daudon put it more diplomatically, “How do you see yourself positioning Microsoft to increase its market share to become an even stronger competitor?”

To which Nadella replied, in essence, Pay no attention to our current Windows Phone market share!

Actually, his answer was more nuanced than that. Here’s what he said.

When we define mobile in the marketplace, we don’t think of it by today’s market share positions on a given form factor. Devices and device sizes will come and go, even within a single year, you will be changing multiple phones. It’s more about the mobility. In fact, if there’s anything central to our vision, it’s don’t think of the device at the center, think of the individual, the people at the center. And then have the platforms and productivity experiences get built with that at the center.

So you will have many devices, you will have small devices, large devices, and devices that have not yet been created that will come in time. But what’s going to be the constant? Your digital memories, your productivity experiences across all of those devices. That’s really the center of how we think about innovating today and into the future.

And also we are very grounded on this cross-platform world. One of the things that you’re find is Microsoft icons on any phone — irrespective of whether it’s a Windows Phone or not. That’s our core goal: Things like Office, things like Skype are broadly available. And Minecraft! On every 8-year-old’s phone, for sure.

The response underscored the change in mindset under Nadella’s leadership as CEO, but it also sidestepped the question of whether Microsoft can be a major player in productivity and platforms, as Nadella hopes, with smartphone market share in the single-digits and app developers treating its mobile platform as an also-ran.

That’s the big challenge facing the company in the short run. The bigger challenge long-term — as long as Microsoft continues to make hardware and operating systems — is identifying and becoming a leader in those devices yet to come.

Previously: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Minecraft: ‘It’s the one game parents want their kids to play’

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