Massive evolution to take place in the way mobiles are used: P Anandan, Microsoft Research India
"While mobile is becoming increasingly important, mobile technology and mobile phones haven’t reached their final form or point," Anandan said.
Anandan, 58, is the managing director of Microsoft Research India where some 40 scientists out of a staff of about 65 are looking at solving problems that could have a tremendous impact on taking the benefits of technology to the poor. India-born Satya Nadella becoming CEO doesn’t change the long-term mission of Microsoft Research, while it continues the tradition of having a top boss who has great love for research, Anandan tells ET in an interview. Edited excerpts:
What do you see as the important areas related to mobile phones?
It’s a mobile-first scenario now with respect to people’s experience, not only on the web, but computing itself. More people discover the value or use of computing technologies starting with the mobile than with desktop or laptop.
In India it’s slightly different. It’s not as if everyone has a smartphone. The vast majority are not smartphones, but the people’s access to computing technology often is through the mobile. That’s the best way to reach them. In terms of research labs like us, we have broadly two different ways in which we are interested. While mobile is becoming increasingly important, mobile technology and mobile phones haven’t reached their final form or point.
They’re still significantly evolving. All in all, the whole problem of getting increased and easy access to the cloud, broadly the web, from mobiles and other devices where the connectivity can be a challenge is one topic and the other topic is how to do it in a way the energy consumption is minimised.
Why did you say the mobile phone and related technologies haven’t reached any final point?
We haven’t really got the most out of what you can do with the mobile experience. We all assume that the mobile phone has to be like this (the way they are today) that we hold to our ear and have certain functions. There is no explicit reason why it has to have that form factor. Wearable technologies are emerging. There’s going to be other types of form factors that may turn out to be better.
If you think about mobiles, you think about conversations, downloading data, watching videos, downloading some apps … but increasingly there may be some apps and services that are very aware of where you are, what you’re doing and those can give you more targeted services, even healthcare monitoring for example.
Has Satya Nadella becoming CEO changed anything for you?
No not really. In my role, you interact with the CEO in one way or the other every so often. It’s not an unusual day, and Satya has been to India and I’ve met him. Various people at Microsoft Research have made presentations to him in his role as head of cloud and enterprise business, so I know him at that level.
Do you anticipate sharper focus in those areas?
Microsoft Research has always had a broad front. It’s not going to narrow its front while the company has a strategy in an area, but it will increase its short-term emphasis in this because we want to get some problems solved.
What would you ask him the next time you meet Nadella?
There is a specific sort of project some people in MSR are looking at on secure computation on the cloud, so I’d be interested in knowing what his thoughts are on this. But that’s a very very specific thing and if I met him day after tomorrow it might be a different question. One thing about Satya is that in the time that we have interacted with him, he has shown a lot of love for research.
Microsoft Research has had very good collaboration with both OSD, when he was first in the online services division, and cloud and enterprises. So, I’m very happy. I would say that as far as Microsoft Research’s value is concerned, I know that our CEO values us. The old CEO did, the new CEO does so no problem there.