Changing of the Guard at Microsoft

Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. Credit:

After a nervous wait of several months, a new CEO has been named at Microsoft.  Steve Ballmer is out and Satya Nadella is in.  “The King is Dead, Long Live the King.”  Pundits were placing their bets on somebody outside of Microsoft, at the end, the corporation decided to keep one of its own to lead the soldiers into battle.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced that Satya Nadella was its next leader, betting on a longtime engineering executive to help the company keep better pace with changes in technology.

The choice of Mr. Nadella to replace Steven A. Ballmer, was accompanied by news that Bill Gates, a company founder, had stepped down from his role as chairman and become a technology adviser to Mr. Nadella.

In Mr. Nadella, Microsoft’s directors selected both a company insider and an engineer, suggesting that they viewed technical skill and intimacy with Microsoft’s sprawling businesses as critical for its next leader. It has often been noted that Microsoft was more successful under the leadership of Mr. Gates, a programmer and its first chief executive, than it was under Mr. Ballmer, who had a background in sales. Mr. Ballmer, 57, said in August that he was stepping down.

Mr. Nadella, 46, born in Hyderabad, India, is only the third chief executive of Microsoft, an icon of American business that has struggled for position in big growth markets like mobile and Internet search. The company has correctly anticipated many of the biggest changes in technology—the rise of smartphones and tablet computers, to use two examples—but it has often fumbled the execution of products developed to capitalize on those changes.

The Surface hybrid computer and Windows 8.0 operation system have received a lukewarm reception from confused and irate consumers.  Getting rid of the Start button has been a total fiasco pressuring Microsoft to put it back after receiving a barrage of criticism from angry users. In this market, Microsoft has lost its compass, even though, in the IT business arena, it is doing very well, following the path of IBM after it exited from the personal computer market.

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Nadella’s technical background, along with the closer involvement of Mr. Gates in product decisions, will give the company an edge it lacked during the Ballmer years. Microsoft said in a statement that Mr. Gates will “devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.”

Mr. Nadella, who has been married for 22 years and has three children, counts cricket and poetry among his hobbies. In an email to Microsoft employees on Tuesday morning, he wrote that he is “defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning.”

“I buy more books than I can finish,” he wrote. “I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things.”

Mr. Nadella’s star at Microsoft rose considerably in the past several years as he took charge of the company’s cloud computing efforts, a business considered vital as more business customers choose to rent applications and other programs in far-off data centers and not run software themselves.

As chief executive of the entire 100,000-person company, Mr. Nadella has to grapple with a much broader set of challenges in markets in which he has little experience, like mobile devices. He inherits a deal to acquire Nokia’s mobile handset business, along with 33,000 employees, and a wide-ranging reorganization plan devised by Mr. Ballmer and still in progress.

In his statement Tuesday, Mr. Nadella said: “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”

In the past, Microsoft has been able to tap dance on a pin’s head.  It’s highly likely they will do it again, this time with fresh blood.  It will be interesting to watch Microsoft with a new man at the helm in a cut-throat hyper competitive environment.  Good Day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s