Microsoft CEO unveils Skype Translation

JESSICA GUYNN
Last updated 10:14, May 29 2014
DETERMINED: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Reuters

DETERMINED: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Satya Nadella made one thing clear during his first public interview since taking the reins of the software giant in February: This is Nadella's Microsoft.

Nadella showed off his imprint on Tuesday night with a splashy new technology: Skype Translation.

It's essentially real-time language translation and will be available in beta sometime this year on any device that runs Skype, Nadella said in a conversation with journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher to kick off the inaugural Code Conference.

Microsoft isn't sure how many languages will be included initially. The company will release new languages as they meet the bar for translation quality.

The software relies on work by Microsoft's research arm, as well as the Bing search unit, which has its own translation product for Web pages and Internet content. The Skype service needs to use speech recognition to understand the speaker, machine learning for the translation, and text-to- speech technology to send the translation to the listener.

Nadella may have the toughest job in technology: rebooting a nearly 40-year-old tech giant that has missed the biggest waves in the industry including search and mobile.

But Nadella said he is determined to make Microsoft as relevant today as it was back when it promised to put a personal computer on every desk and in every home.

Under Nadella, Microsoft introduced the Office for iPad subscription service. And last week the company launched the new Surface Pro tablet after years of debate within Microsoft.

Nadella said he is focused on re-energising Microsoft's corporate culture and instilling "the will to get it done."

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Microsoft won't search outside its own walls for the next big thing, he added.

"We have to build something big," Nadella said. "If, along the way, we have to buy things, that's fine. But we have to build something big."

He talked about Microsoft entering the "post-post PC" age.

"We are at the beginning of a post-post PC era," Nadella said. "It's this multiple device world where you build software platforms and software applications that span devices."

Nadella said he wants Microsoft to develop a new technology that could rival its three biggest businesses: Windows for personal computers, Windows Server and its Office applications.

He would not say what the "big thing" might be.

Nadella has been chief executive for nearly four months. He is only the third CEO in Microsoft's nearly 40-year history.

MCT/Bloomberg

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