Gesture, gaze, and speech are the next big tech trends, forecast Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a power packed keynote discussion with classmate Shantanu Narayen, CEO, Adobe, on day two of the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas.

“And it needs to be instinctive, not rigid like it is now,” he said. “If you look at HoloLens (Microsoft’s VR headset), it has an instinctive user interface.”

“We need more computing, not less, and it needs to be ubiquitous. With the roll out of 5G networks around the world, you have the power of the cloud and ability to project it to low latency, which is coming,” said Nadella, describing how intelligent cloud and intelligent edge have been paradigm shifts.

“Computing itself is today more distributed, so that you have both the cloud and the edge. When I look at autonomous cars, autonomous warehouses, the most interesting things that are happening are the edge,” he said.

Bringing data together

Nadella, along with Narayen, also demonstrated how unlocking data that is trapped in silos can be transformative. Last September, Microsoft, Adobe and SAP had entered into an ‘Open Data Initiative’ partnership to enable their platforms to share operational and behavioural data in real time that could be used by any brand to enrich customer experience.

A demonstration of how ODI could be transformative was showcased using Unilever’s example. Unilever is unifying enterprise-wide data from all three platforms to drive through its goal of making all its packaging reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025.

“The greatest asset and most important asset everyone has in this room is the data, which is yours. Except it’s often locked up in silos,” Nadella told attendees. The only way to make customer interaction better or improving supply chain or driving sustainability is to get all the data together through ODI, he said.

Later, in a press briefing, more details on the ODI were shared. The three partner companies have made investments on enhancing interoperability between their applications and platforms through a common data model. The unified information will be stored in a customer chosen data lake.

More players are also being roped into the initiative. A Partner Advisory Council has been formed where agencies, systems integrators and software vendors have joined. Among others, Accenture, WPP, Hootsuite, InMobi are part of the Council.

Empathy and innovation

Nadella — under whose tenure helming Microsoft, has seen the company’s performance zoom and the culture improve leading to massive innovation — shared his thoughts on business transformation. “Empathy is the source of all innovation,” the tech titan said, describing how adaptive controllers that have enabled the differently-abled to play came about because a team of X-box developers got close to a community of gamers with different abilities.

“The ability to meet the inner unarticulated needs of others comes from a sense of empathy,” he said.

He also said innovation is about how quickly you can try and fail, adding that we need to reward those who can disprove their own hypothesis. “We need to go from know-it-alls to learn-it-alls,” he said.