"The ultimate computer for me is the mixed reality world," he said. "Your field of view becomes an infinite display. You see the world and in the world you see virtual objects and holograms." He is of course referring to HoloLens
, which is Microsoft's take on augmented reality hardware. A few months ago, the company announced that it's opening up Windows Holographic
so that third-party makers could get in on it too, potentially creating VR headsets
in addition to AR ones.
Right now, Nadella is still excited about the use cases of augmented reality, saying that Case Western Reserve University is already using AR in an anatomy class. He also envisions the technology could be useful in more everyday tasks, like home improvement, offering a solution for those endless trips to the store and back. "Imagine if you could see what your home improvement project would look like and then press order," he said.
Nadella compares the company's current effort at augmented reality with their attempt at the Surface a few years ago. "Think of what we did," he said. "Back then, people asked 'What is a 2-in-1?' Now, it's a growing category."
"Whether it be HoloLens, mixed reality, or Surface, our goal is to invent new computers and new computing," he added. This also includes investing in artificial intelligence, which is now its own group within the company.
Nadella admitted that for a long time, Microsoft was complacent. "Early success is probably the worst thing that can happen in life," he said. But now, he wants Microsoft to be more of a "learn-it-all" culture rather than a "know-it-all" culture.
"We clearly missed the mobile boom" he said. "Now we have to make sure we grow new categories."
Nadella also addressed a few questions about Microsoft's sketchy history with acquisitions, notably Nokia and Skype. But he also spoke proudly of Minecraft and how it fits into the company's goal in STEM education, plus how LinkedIn is a good fit because Microsoft is already a company that works with professionals. Acquisitions, he said, are tricky, because it needs to be a real fit with a sense of identity and purpose.
As for cars, well, Nadella put any rumors about a Microsoft self-driving vehicle to rest. "I am very happy about all the car companies using Azure right now," he said, referring to Microsoft's enterprise cloud solution. "We're a trusted partner who's not going to compete with them."
"To me the Microsoft brand has always stood for being the company that has got a bit of a utilitarian bent to it," Nadella said, adding that he thinks this is a good thing. "We are the company that stands for builders, makers and creators. That's the brand we want."