Satya Nadella Targets Transforming Microsoft Into A Powerful Artificial Intelligence Company

When former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer handed the reins to Satya Nadella, the company had not long before undergone a complete reorganization. Ballmer knew that Microsoft needed a new face with a fresh set of eyes at the helm, that it was time to let younger blood lead the company wherever it was destined. And where exactly is that? Fast forward to today and Nadella is steering Microsoft towards an interesting future in deep learning and artificial intelligence.

Lest there be any doubt, Nadella said as much during a keynote at Microsoft's Ignite conference for IT professionals in Atlanta, GA.  He talked about artificial intelligence being at the "intersection of our ambitions," how it would allow us "to reason over large amounts of data and convert that into intelligence." Nadella spoke of the massive amount of data that's being created and how it's happening as such a fast clip that "we don't even know what to name things."


"In this information explosion, what remains scarce is human intention and time, our ability to make sense of all of this information," Nadella said.

This is where AI comes into play. We're seeing the very beginning of where AI is headed in things like Cortana, which over time will be better at understanding context. But it's not just digital assistants that Microsoft is excited about, it's the opportunities that deep learning and AI provide in existing and new platforms.

"With Office 365, we are not just moving to the cloud. The most profound sh8ift is in the fact that the data underneath the applications of Office 365 is exposed in a graph structure. And in a trusted, private-preserving way, we can reason over this data and create intelligence. That's really the profound shift in Office 365," Nadella said.

Nadella isn't the only one seeing a future in deep learning and AI. Chip maker Intel spent $16.7 billion last year acquiring Altera, a Silicon Valley bellwether known for producing FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays), PLDs (Programmable Logic Devices), Embedded Processors, and ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits). At the time, it wasn't entirely clear how Intel would leverage Altera's technologies, though it's increasingly looking like FPGAs will play a critical role in Microsoft's data centers and mark the advent of AI accelerators. Those accelerators could pave the way towards AI-assisted contextually aware computing and search model services.

AI is the next frontier and there are many moving pieces in place. Looking shorter term, Microsoft is collaborating with the National Football League to create a fantasy football bot, and Uber has tapped into Microsoft's face recognition tools to verify drivers and passengers, to name just two examples.

In short, Nadella said Microsoft wants to "democraticize AI just like we brought information to your fingertips." From there, it's up to developers and inventors to figure out how best to utilize all of the newfangled technology and information that will be within their grasp.