Microsoft has become very bullish on the “industrial Metaverse” because digital twins and related technologies have already begun to help multiple companies digitalize processes, use less energy and create less waste, and deliver better experiences to their customers more rapidly.
Speaking at a Goldman Sachs investors conference last month, Microsoft Executive VP and Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff said three broad Metaverse categories are emerging: consumer, commercial, and industrial.
While each holds significant potential, Althoff said, the industrial Metaverse is “where I actually have the most amount of passion.” Now, coming from the head of sales for one of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations, that means that industrial customers must be showing intense levels of interest in emerging opportunities within the Metaverse.
While the Metaverse is clearly still in its infancy with fairly amorphous business models, products, and norms, it is nevertheless displaying huge potential for companies to engage more productively and intimately with customers in the digital world of today and tomorrow. (If you’d like to stay on top of cutting-edge insights about and analysis of the Metaverse, you should be following my colleague Kieron Allen and his superb My Metaverse Minute commentaries and interviews.)
So when I heard Althoff speak so enthusiastically about the new-born market segment called industrial Metaverse, I was intrigued to hear what stirred all that passion within Microsoft’s head of global sales.
Althoff built his vision around digital twins and IoT technologies and focused on how they can help replace physical prototyping and testing and modeling and thereby reduce energy usage and waste. And those are wonderful outcomes that every company should be pursuing.
But I thought it was a bit odd that Althoff didn’t address the other high-value outcome beyond those very appropriate sustainability outcomes: the ability for businesses to deliver to their customers better and more finely tuned products, services, and experiences.
I think Althoff’s overview of the big potential for the industrial Metaverse would have been even more compelling and persuasive if he had addressed those extremely important perspectives as well — because as important and strategic as sustainability is, companies still ultimately need to be able to dazzle their customers with more than their sustainability KPIs.
From Althoff’s conversation with Goldman Sachs analyst Kash Rangan, here’s Althoff on the industrial Metaverse, including his mention of five great customers currently delivering on the cool new innovations he outlines.
“To simplify, I look at it in kind of three buckets: there’s the consumer metaverse, and there’ll be a monetization thing there in the consumer metaverse.
“There’s the commercial metaverse, where people will have more engaging and experiential collaboration in the metaverse. And I do think that there’s an opportunity there to bring people from around the world with different perspectives to collaborate.
“But where I actually have the most amount of passion is in this thing I call the industrial metaverse, and we have real tangible outcomes for driving with customers today. And so think of it as combining sets of technologies and IoT capabilities where you come in and create a sensor fabric for any industrial process, any manufacturing environment, any supply chain or logistics scenario.
“You have that sensor fabric feed a large-scale cloud-based analytics solution, a large data store. And then you reason over top of it with machine learning and create what we call digital twins of those environments and simulate outcomes.
“If you think about it, if you make anything or you move anything, you create a carbon footprint. If I can simulate that for you infinitely in the cloud before you make it and before you move it, I can help you create a better product more cost-effectively with lower carbon footprint and lower water utilization more sustainably than ever before.
“We see real progress happening today with companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever, AB InBev, GM, Grupo Bimbo, across industries of being able to model these processes, save energy, reduce waste, and these solutions pay for themselves.
“So if you take the cloud as a tool to solve for that, I think you would say that we are on the very, very beginning of the curve of adoption and growth of what we can do long-term to have the cloud really drive business outcomes and outcomes for society that really matter.”
I don’t want to be misunderstood here, so again I’ll say that I’m all for being as efficient as possible with energy usage, and with reducing waste wherever and whenever possible. But those highly desirable outcomes need to be fused with great experiences for customers, and great products and services and outcomes for customers.
As the world’s leading tech companies eagerly step forward to tout their sustainability chops, they should be very careful to avoid letting that message overwhelm — or even, as in this case, replace — the reason those companies exist: to dazzle their customers with superb outcomes and experiences via the fruits of the greatest growth market the world has ever known.