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Microsoft executive shakeup signals big changes for Windows, Office and more

Microsoft handed the reins of its Windows and Devices team from Terry Myerson to Rajesh Jha on Thursday, part of a series of moves signalling that Microsoft wants to bring a “unifying product ethos” to Windows, Office, and third-party apps.

In an email to employees, chief executive Satya Nadella explained that the future of Microsoft lay in “the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge,” Nadella’s new way of describing Microsoft’s mission. Familiar names will help Microsoft get there: Panos Panay, who helped bring the original Surface to market, is now Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer, and Joe Belfiore will continue leading Microsoft’s Windows experiences.

But Nadella also offered some insight as to how he expects Jha to move forward, and what he expects out of him: coherence. “The purpose of this team is to instill a unifying product ethos across our end-user experiences and devices,” Nadella wrote.

“Computing experiences are evolving to include multiple senses and are no longer bound to one device at a time but increasingly spanning many as we move from home to work and on the go,” Nadella wrote. “These modern needs, habits and expectations of our customers are motivating us to bring Windows, Office, and third-party applications and devices into a more cohesive Microsoft 365 experience.”

What this means for you: It’s possible that Nadella is signalling the beginning of a “One Windows” vision that people began talking about earlier this year. How this will all play out, and what this means for you, isn’t yet known. What we do know is two things: Myerson’s transition will play out over the next few months, ensuring a smooth handover, and we’ll learn more at Build. Nadella’s email states that Belfiore plans to unveil the latest iteration of Microsoft’s Windows roadmap at its developer conference.

What could a unified Microsoft product ethos mean?

Nadella’s memo could be seen as giving credence to a more unified vision of Windows, beginning with its underpinnings, known as Core OS, and moving up through “composable shells” that could be adapted for various devices. As Windows Central and other sites have reported, this “CShell” would be a modular element that would be specific to a particular type of device: one for desktop PCs, one for notebooks, and so on. What isn’t clear is whether CShell and related efforts, such as a rumored “Andromeda” folding tablet, were RD concepts or actual roadmaps. We hope Microsoft will bring some clarity to this at Build.

Nadella’s memo might also indicate that he expects his engineers to move faster to modernize the look and feel of Windows. Right now, for example, you can go into the Windows 10 Settings menu and make many adjustments to your system. But for certain tweaks, you still have to dive into the more antiquated Control Panel, which simply isn’t as friendly.

Finally, Microsoft may be trying to cut down on the feature disparity between the various flavors of Office apps. Versions of Office for the desktop, web, UWP, mobile, and Office 365, with varying user interfaces and feature sets for consumers and businesses, can create confusion. Skype, for example, is a mess. 

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