Microsoft Asia’s Senior Director of Communications, Andrew Pickup, talks with PAA about the perceptions of the tech market in Asia
What are the specific industry nuances firms such as Microsoft need to be fully aware of when working in and communicating across Asian markets ?
There are two principal axis to consider. Namely the size and maturity of the markets, and Asia has every flavour. In parallel, market maturity may be measured as emerging or developed, but from a communications perspective it is also necessary to measure maturity of the media environment as there can be significant differences between media and journalist practices.
Yet beyond these immediate market considerations we face a rapidly changing landscape in today’s post-PRISM and post-Snowden environment. In this context we need to consider the willingness of governments, and indeed all consumers, to adopt new technologies and software, particularly when there are questions over privacy, Cloud functionality and social connectivity.Ultimately, these considerations are all now tied into the way that we do business as technology continues to progress rapidly. We believe that the world of business and consumers will continue to rapidly converge in which mobile and cloud technologies will be the future. In this environment, Microsoft is positioned as an enabler of human potential.
What differences do you see between consumers’, industry’s and policy makers’ perceptions of tech across the region? How does this influence your approach?
As perceptions vary, so do our approaches. For consumers, perceptions – and decision-making – tend to be more emotional and hence there is a concerted effort by us to excite, delight and surprise them. Business decision-making is driven more by quantifiable value and the prospect of a compelling return on their investment.
For government the considerations are quite distinct. There is little doubt that the future of data storage will be online and in the cloud. This is quite advantageous for emerging markets that may not necessarily have made significant investments in physical infrastructure. However, a unifying concern across these sectors becomes one of trust.
Customers, especially policy makers, must be able to trust companies with their data. In the year since Edward Snowden’s leaks this issue has become paramount in our business and communications strategies. Microsoft has recently enhanced its transparency with a dedicated portal that details the number of data requests that it receives from legal authorities and we have been engaged in several court proceedings in the US to protect our customer’s rights.By doing so we are communicating our determination to protect our customers’ interests. Complementary to this are the four components of our overall Trust in the Cloud strategy: CyberSecurity i.e. built-in security in the products themselves, our Privacy policies and procedures (recently endorsed for our cloud services by the European Union), Transparency and ongoing Certification and Compliance.
As Tech has rapidly moved from an aspirational commodity to an essential component of everyday life, how has the industry’s approach to communications evolved specific to the Asia region?
Across Microsoft there are two big trends that we speak about, Ubiquitous Computing and Ambient Intelligence. For the last four decades computing interactions has been largely dictated by the requirement for a screen, keyboard and then more recently, the mouse. This has been and remains to a large extent non-personal and ‘clunky’ relative to how interpersonal communication modalities should be. This is now beginning to change and the current mobile revolution with which we are all familiar is just the first stage.
In terms of Ubiquitous Computing we are moving toward a time when every device will be a computer and a sensor, from whiteboards to intelligent urban environments. Computers are going to become more wearable, interactive and pervasive. It is fair to say that soon we shall live in an environment in which computers will be ‘always on, always with you, always connected.’
Secondary to this is Ambient Intelligence. i.e. Big Data. All these devices will have processing power. Sophisticated software will be required to mine this automatically in order to create customised services and solutions for the user. Combined, these concepts cascade into millions of potential applications.
How important are industry associations to furthering the industry agenda in Asia? How can other third party bodies be of assistance?
Industry associations are undoubtedly important to representing our policy to government, but with over 100,000 partners across Asia Pacific who deliver our products and support to customers we consider these to be critical in order to bridge that last mile. Our extensive partner network enables Microsoft to implement innovation, scale and customisation of our products to the market.
Across Asia, Microsoft continues to work closely with government in our role as an enabler, which is important as Asia’s time has truly come. The region is swiftly maturing from the world’s manufacturing hub to the consumer engine of the global economy. A lot of governments have woken up to the reality that if they want to build a sustainable knowledge-based economy that creates jobs they must provide the appropriate structures and protections.
This is notably the case in terms of protecting IP. Without these measures in place economies cannot transition up the value-chain levering the cloud, for example. Indeed, our record with governments in this regard is strong. Microsoft’s largest-ever cloud contract was signed just last month with Thailand’s Ministry of Education for 8,000,000 Office 365 suites for students and another 400,000 for teachers.