Microsoft Bids Goodbye to ‘Mobile First’ Mantra in Favor of AI

In case you missed it, Microsoft put its new priority—Artificial intelligence (AI)—front and center in its new Annual Report.

In the document posted Wednesday, the company states its goal of building “best-in-class platforms and productivity services for an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge infused with artificial intelligence (“AI”).”

The annual report for Microsoft’s 2017 fiscal year, ending June 30, differs from last year’s. At that time, Microsoft’s “best-in-class” platforms and services were all about “a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

CNBC was first to report on this shift, which is striking given how many times Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his lieutenants have talked up “mobile first, cloud first” over the past few years. But then again, Microsoft’s smart phone effort, as exemplified by its Nokia purchase fizzled, so maybe it’s time to move on.

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Microsoft’s AI love is really not surprising. Last September, it established a new artificial intelligence and research unit under executive vice president Harry Shum. It pulled together engineers who had worked on Cortana speech recognition, Bing search, robotics, and other groups under one umbrella for basic and applied research. Last month, it created a subset of that group to take on particularly tough AI challenges. Earlier this week, the company said it is designing special AI chips to power its next HoloLens virtual reality device.

AI has become a battle ground with Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), and IBM (IBM) all pouring resources into technologies to make software smarter and more adaptive. The goal is to endow software with human-like characteristics.

Manifestations of AI can be seen with “smart” devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and the aforementioned Cortana voice assistant from Microsoft.

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