October 2016: Microsoft

FDI of the Month | Wed 2 Nov | Author – Business & Finance Cathriona Hallahan Microsoft
Cathriona Hallahan, managing director, Microsoft

Software updates, new hardware, a play for the emerging 3D market and an Irish visit by the CEO made for a busy October at Microsoft.

Not too long ago, Microsoft was in trouble. Windows 8 was a flop, the early iterations of its Surface hardware offering failed to inspire popularity, and the company was nowhere in the biggest thing to happen to the industry since the PC: smartphones.

The future looks brighter now. October was an important milestone in the veteran tech giant’s reinvigoration under CEO Satya Nadella, with a series of key developments hitting the headlines.

Windows 10 continues its efforts to banish the memory of the unloved Windows 8. Last month Microsoft announced the second update to its operating system, due to be trialled as a beta for insiders and widely available for free early next year. Dubbed the Creators Update, the evolution sees the company make a play for the attention of artists, designers and professionals who generate content – territory that has traditionally been controlled by Apple and its Mac.

THE CREATORS

Just as Microsoft missed the smartphone revolution, the coming update sees it make a play for what it sees as the next great leap forward in the industry: 3D. Executive vice president Terry Myerson has made bold claims for the Creators Update: he wants it to “have the effect of the Gutenberg press on the next wave of computing”.

Affordable third-party virtual reality headsets, the company’s own Hololens and a 3D revamp for the veteran Paint app are part of the plan, and software to turn smartphone cameras into 3D scanners will allow users to import and tinker with 3D files, just as we have become used to working with digital photos on photo editing software.

The company also announced new hardware: a futuristic-looking Surface all-in-one desktop machine that looks at home in graphic design studios and high-end apartments; a new input device known as the Surface Dial; and a higher-spec Surface Book all broke cover for the first time.

Along with game streaming and the continued convergence of the Xbox and the PC, the next year or so of Microsoft’s product development seems to be inspiring.

DROPPING IN

Microsoft, of course, has a long-standing association with Ireland through its Microsoft Ireland operations under managing director Cathriona Hallahan. It, too, had a busy October, welcoming CEO Satya Nadella to the Convention Centre Dublin on October 3rd. Nadella was in town to talk all things cloud: the company has launched its A Cloud for Global Good book, a series of 78 recommendations for governments that will promote nothing less than the “fourth industrial revolution”.

“Building a global, trusted, intelligent cloud platform is core to our mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more,” said Nadella, who revealed that the company has spent over $3bn on cloud infrastructure in Europe. It is also involved in eHealth Ireland, the Health Service Executive’s project to create a digital identifier for all patients, digital health records for mothers and babies, a single national lab system, digital identity for health workers, and communications tools to enable real-time communication between clinicians and patients. 

Head of Irish operations 

Cathriona Hallahan joined Microsoft in 1986 and has held a variety of senior roles in finance and operations functions. Previous to her role as MD of Microsoft Ireland, Hallahan was managing director for Microsoft’s Dublin-based EMEA Operations Centre (EOC) for four years.

In this role, she was responsible for a 600-strong team that manages operations across 120 countries. She also sits on the boards of Solas, the Children’s Hospital Group Board, the UCD Advisory Board to the President of the College, and the DanceSport Federation Board of Ireland.

She recently accepted the position of chair of IBEC’s Innovation, Science and Technology Policy Committee, and also sits on IBEC’s Senior Innovation & Education Policy Executive Committee. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum, the Institute of Directors, the Institute of Accounting Technicians (IATI), and is a fellow of ACCA.