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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told "Axios on HBO" that he is not focused on cutting costs in the face of the coronavirus crisis, but instead aiming to meet "new demand" for Microsoft Teams and other Office applications as more employees work from home.

Why it matters: Tech companies like Microsoft are taking on central new roles in keeping government, business and education up and running as offices shut down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

What's happening: Microsoft warned in February that earnings would fall short of expectations due to the virus, but that related to the supply of PCs coming out of China, not the broader impact of the pandemic.

  • Asked if he was contemplating layoffs or slowing in investments in certain areas, Nadella said that's not where he is putting his energy.
  • "So for now, what I'm focused on is ... what I would call new demand," Nadella said. "I don't think, you know, one month ago I would have thought of 'work from home' as a complete new scenario with the type of spikes we have today. Overall activation of Microsoft 365 is increasing significantly." (That's a mix of new paid users and free trials, though.)

While the spike in demand has led to some challenges — Microsoft Teams had an outage in Europe last week — Nadella said that, overall, the shift from company-based servers to the cloud has prepared the economy to handle a large population of employees working from home.

"I think we are so much better equipped today," Nadella said. "But clearly the spikes we are seeing are pretty unprecedented, right? This was not a growth that we had looked at and planned in any spreadsheet or any model we had even a month ago."

Yes, but: It's not like a near shutdown of the economy isn't going to hurt other areas.

  • "When you have large swaths of our consumer economy quarantined, there will be an impact," Nadella said.
  • "We are clearly going to have some demand shock," Nadella said. "But Microsoft is a very diversified business, and that's been one of our strengths through the previous downturns. ... We have a good set of businesses with good business models."

The big picture: With a huge concentration of employees in Washington state — and a presence in China — Microsoft was hit early by the epidemic and acted early, encouraging its employees to work from home and promising to pay hourly workers even if their services were not needed as full-time employees telecommute.

Meanwhile: Nadella said he is still tapping Bill Gates' expertise, even as the Microsoft co-founder announced last week he would step down from the company's board.

  • "Bill has been very engaged in helping us understand even some of the core data and science and also the response side of it," Nadella said, adding, "Bill and his guidance will continue independent of his participation in our board. He will always be our founder, and he'll always be somebody that I'll count on his advice in times like this and beyond."

Go deeper

Food delivery "ghost kitchens" face major obstacles

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The growing popularity of food delivery has given rise to startups that open "ghost kitchens" — kitchens in warehouses or trailers that prepare food solely for delivery and have no option to dine in.

  • But they can come with a whole host of problems.

The big picture: The concept of "ghost kitchens" has been dubbed the next big thing in the future of services, with high profile backers like Uber founder Travis Kalanick. But these kitchens can be hard to run or unsafe.

1 hour ago - Health

Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health workers

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities nationwide.

The big picture: The order comes one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

CNN suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely

Chris Cuomo in 2019. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for THR

CNN announced Tuesday evening that it has suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely following new revelations about his involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Driving the news: New documents released Monday showed that Cuomo used his contacts to garner information about the women accusing his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of sexual harassment, as well as of emerging media coverage relating to the scandal.