2014 has been a year of transformation for Microsoft. Satya Nadella, a longtime expert in the company's cloud computing and search offerings, has taken the helm as CEO and, with the official departure of former CEO Steven Ballmer from Microsoft's board, it appears to be the beginning of a new era. For example, Nadella recently sponsored a weeklong hackathon that enabled employees to work across both businesses and roles to solve problems, and demonstrated Nadella's willingness to evolve Microsoft's culture to meet the demands of the future. In addition to the change in leadership, Microsoft also repositioned from "Windows first" to "cloud and mobile first," marking a departure from the company's legacy strategy in desktop software.
Microsoft has followed through on its vision to deliver cloud- and mobile-related products and services in several ways. Its domination of the enterprise space continues, and Microsoft is working hard to encourage businesses to transition away from Windows XP and upgrade to Windows 8. In the mobile world, the USD $7.1 billion completion of its purchase of Nokia's devices and services division-including the Lumia and Asha brands, 8,500 patents, and 33,000 employees-positions Microsoft well to compete. The integration of its phone, tablet, and desktop interfaces is enabling a more seamless experience for both users and developers across its growing ecosystem, and releasing the market-leading Office suite for the Apple iPad keeps the brand relevant across platforms. Cortana, a personal voice assistant backed by the Bing search engine, accompanies the latest release of Windows Phone 8.1 and is expected to rival Apple's Siri and Google Now.
In further efforts to increase relevance, the company rebranded Windows Azure, its cloud computing enterprise, as Microsoft Azure and made it price competitive with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing platform. In the world of gaming, Microsoft recently purchased the parent company of Minecraft for USD $2.5 billion. The news signals that Microsoft fully realizes how gaming is changing, and intends to be right there with the market.