In five years time when we look back at applications built today their defining characteristic will be data and the reasoning obtained from large amounts of data to create intelligence. That’s the view of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who delivered the opening keynote at the Microsoft Australia Developer Conference in Sydney today.

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On his first visit to Australia since becoming CEO, Nadella told developers Microsoft intends to give them the building blocks they need to make intelligent applications through the Cortana Intelligence Suite and cognitive APIs.

“We want to put into your hands as developers the richest toolkit to be able to store large amounts of data of any type, to be able to process that data, and to be able to create intelligence out of it,” Nadella said.

Nadella said that machine learning and artificial intelligence are not just for consumer internet companies but are broadly being deployed in the context of healthcare, retail and industrial companies.

Noting that today may not be the best day to bring up the Australian cricket team’s performance following a loss to South Africa, Nadella spoke about Cricket Australia’s plan to use machine learning. The sporting organisation will use Microsoft’s Sports Management Platform, machine learning, predictive analytics and rich visualisation to manage and analyse its performance and player data.

“Cricket is perhaps one of the richest sports when it comes to data, but how could you harness the power of data to start having a more intelligent, informed conversation about performance of teams, performance of players?” Nadella asked. “The idea that developers can bend the curve of cricket performance is perhaps one of the most empowering things I’ve seen in my life.”

During his keynote Nadella announced the public preview of a new Azure Bot services which lets developers to build, deploy and manage bots on the Azure cloud.

“You’re going to take every business process and build a bot interface. But in order to do that you need to have natural language understanding. And that’s what the bot framework enables for every developer,” he said.

He also announced that OpenAI, the non-profit AI research organisation associated with Elon Musk, has chosen Microsoft Azure as its primary cloud platform.

“Open AI, which is created by Elon Musk and Sam Altman, has decided to use Azure for their projects around Open AI, where they’ve assembled a fantastic world class team and they are going to be tapping into the Azure capabilities around AI for them to, in fact, further their research agenda,” Nadella said.

Mobile-first, Cloud-first

Nadella described Microsoft’s worldview in terms of technology as mobile-first and cloud-first. He argued mobile-first isn’t about the mobility of a single device but rather the “mobility of human experience.”

“If one thing is going to be true, it is that we are going to have more computing, not less computing, as each year goes on,” Nadella said. “We’re going to have general purpose sensors in every room that we walk into that can run general purpose compute. We’re going to have small screens, large screens. And so the goal is to be able to have the mobility of the human experience across all of that computing.”

And that mobility will be enabled by the cloud. “The cloud is the control plane that gives you that mobility across all of your computing. So that’s why I think of both of these revolutions happening together,” Nadella said.

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