‘Uncharted territory’: What Satya Nadella is telling Microsoft employees about the COVID-19 outbreak


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at the Microsoft Build developer conference in Seattle in May 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella thanked employees for their hard work and said the company has a key role to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic in a company-wide email sent Saturday.

The email, which also published on LinkedIn, described the current crisis as “uncharted territory.”

Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech

“Much is unknown, and I know how unsettling and uncertain this feels,” Nadella wrote. “Like many of you, there have been times over the past weeks where it has felt overwhelming and all-encompassing for me. I worry about the health and safety of my family, my co-workers, and friends. My wife and I worry for her aging parents, who are far away from us in India. I see the struggle in our local community, and around the world, the empty streets and restaurants, and I wonder when our social fabric will be restored.”

Nadella cited several examples of Microsoft products being used during the crisis, such as its Teams chat app, the Bing COVID-19 tracker, and the CDC’s Healthcare Bot. He name-checked fellow Seattle-area companies including Adaptive Biotechnologies and Icertis.

Nadella called software “the most malleable tool ever created” and said it “has a huge role to play across every industry and around the world.”

“Our unique role as a platform and tools provider allows us to connect the dots, bring together an ecosystem of partners, and enable organizations of all sizes to build the digital capability required to address these challenges,” he wrote.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also sent a letter to employees Saturday. Bezos thanked employees and gave a bleak outlook for the near future.

“Across the world, people are feeling the economic effects of this crisis, and I’m sad to tell you I predict things are going to get worse before they get better,” Bezos wrote.

Microsoft stock is down more than 25 percent this month. A survey from RBC showed that Microsoft businesses such as Azure, Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams could help the company weather the impact from COVID-19. Microsoft said Thursday that its Teams software saw its daily active user count rise more than 37 percent over the past week, from 32 million to 44 million users around the world.

The company said in February that it will miss revenue guidance for its “More Personal Computing” business segment, which includes Windows, due to the outbreak.

Microsoft was one of the first companies to ask employees to work from home as the COVID-19 disease began spreading in the Seattle area. Two employees tested positive on March 6. The company employs nearly 54,000 people in the Seattle region, most of them at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

Microsoft closed its retail stores earlier this week. It also moved its Build developer event in Seattle to an online-only event.

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