Microsoft has called on its partners to help turn every industry into one driven by artificial intelligence.
In a speech at the company’s Inspire partner conference in Las Vegas this week, chief executive Satya Nadella said sectors from the high street to farming could use AI to take advantage of their data.
Microsoft’s “AI first” strategy means the company’s mission is “for us to be able to turn every industry into an AI-first industry, whether it’s retail or healthcare or agriculture,” Nadella said.
To that end, Microsoft is taking AI breakthroughs from its research division and making them available to anyone through its developer tools, he said.
Some AI achievements to date have been “pretty stunning”, but those to come will be “far greater”, Nadella said.
“I’ve sort of lived through the client-server, the web, mobile, cloud, but what we’re going to see going forward is going to be even more profound,” he said.
Just as computing has “disappeared” by weaving itself into “the fabric of life”, Microsoft wants to “infuse everything with AI”.
“It’s going to have perception capability, language capability and autonomy that’s going to be built into the applications going forward,” he said.
Microsoft is working on technologies that can help make everything from drones to shipping pallets autonomous, according to Nadella.
“Autonomy is not just about some few self-driving projects, this is about autonomy everywhere,” he said.
Following Microsoft’s experiments with subsea data centres, Nadella said its Azure cloud computing capabilities will migrate out to the edge of the network, wherever there is data to be processed.
“We are going and taking Azure to Azure Stack, to Azure IoT Edge, to Azure Sphere,” he said. “This is that one ubiquitous distributed computing fabric. One inrogramming model that is event-driven, serverless, so you can write an application that truly works across all of this.”
Another big shift is that technologies such as Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 are putting “people at the centre, the relationship people have with other people, the activities and tasks that you do”, in a move away from device-centric experiences.
Microsoft announced a multi-year cloud deal with Walmart at the conference, in a move that unites two of Amazon’s biggest competitors in the cloud and retail businesses.