Steve Ballmer was in the audience, not on stage. Bill Gates wasn’t even there.
A former Microsoft industry rival, John Thompson, made his first appearance as the new Microsoft chairman. Four of the board members in the front row were entirely new.
Satya Nadella, nine months into his job as CEO, touted the company’s progress in cloud services and apps across a wide variety of platforms, not just Windows.
Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting this morning was a reminder of just how much has changed at the company over the past year. So where does Microsoft’s flagship product, Windows, land in the midst of all this transformation?
Here’s what Nadella said, in part, in response to that question from a shareholder.
We want to make sure that Office 365 is available to everyone on every device and that’s what we’ve committed to, and in fact it’s driving some good adoption and usage.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t get to take advantage of the fact that Microsoft has the unique capability to bring our apps, and our operating system, as well as now our hardware together in unique ways. Surface Pro 3 is a fantastic example of that. If you look at the breakthroughs in what we’ve done in OneNote, inking in Windows to get rid of the parallax error that happens when you do ink on glass, and the actual pen itself, that’s innovation that we can uniquely do, and we are very committed to being able to differentiate using that set of capabilities that we have.
So I think of Windows as the coming together of the best of Microsoft, in the most natural way. There are some things that you can only do if you make changes to the core operating system, to the core shell, and so those are things that we will exploit. But that doesn’t mean we are not going to also have great applications for people to use. I want to have a Microsoft folder on every device, and Microsoft Windows on more devices. That’s how I think our strategy going forward will shape up.
Microsoft gave a brief glimpse of Windows 10 at the meeting, including the new Start menu, but the company isn’t expected to deliver further news about the next version of the operating system until early next year.
The Q&A portion of the meeting focused largely on issues of diversity, including an extended statement by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who credited Microsoft for being ahead of other tech companies on the topic, but pressed the company to work with minority contractors, and improve the diversity of its board and executive team.
Somebody at Microsoft might want to get Rev. Jackson a Surface Pro 3 to use. A member of his staff, at the front of the audience, recorded video of his comments and Microsoft’s response on an iPad.
Nadella, clearly sensitive to the issue after his controversial comments on women in technology earlier this year, promised continued improvements.
As is the tradition, the meeting brought out its share of quirky characters, including one woman who said she came to the meeting from New York City to submit her application for the Microsoft board. She didn’t list her qualifications, but Thompson encouraged her to leave a resume with Microsoft staffers outside the meeting. I wasn’t able to find her afterward, unfortunately.
Where was Bill Gates? I wasn’t able to get a clear answer on this topic from Microsoft, but he was expected to be at the closed-door Microsoft board meeting taking place following the meeting.
Ballmer, who remains the company’s largest individual shareholder, didn’t make any public comments during the meeting, but watching him in the audience, he was clearly pleased with the shareholder who asked, “At what price would Microsoft not buy back its own stock? That may be becoming an issue.”
Microsoft shares have increased 20 percent over the past six months, and are up more than 30 percent since Ballmer officially left the CEO role nine months ago.
Microsoft finance chief Amy Hood responded this way, “We believe the future is very bright. Our opportunities are broad, our geographic opportunities are broad, our product vision is broad, and I definitely believe that our ability to grow is only limited by our imagination. So I tend to think that the stock price over time reflects our ability to execute on that broad dream.”
The company’s shares are down slightly in trading after the meeting, to $48.28 at the time of this post.