In a move that we have all been waiting for, Microsoft has named its new chief executive (CEO). Satya Nadella will replace outgoing Steve Ballmer, who announced plans that he will be stepping down last year. The appointment marks the company’s third CEO in its history.
In further news, Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates will no longer serve as chairman, but is instead moving to a new position as “technology advisor.” John Thompson, who led the search for the new CEO, will be taking over Gates’ role.
“After reviewing all the candidates, Satya was our first and unanimous choice,” says Thompson. “He has the technical expertise, the product expertise, and leadership attributes we were looking for. We were fortunate to have strong, independent-minded board members with a wide range of experiences and expertise.”
In his first interview as CEO, Nadella says, “When I think about the core of why I’m here, it is about impact. And in a software-powered world, what’s a better place than Microsoft in terms of being able to take all of this human potential that we have in the soon-to-be 137,000 people and apply it to a world that is rapidly becoming more software-driven. The opportunity is what fundamentally drives me and what made me raise my hand for this job.”
Gates’ new role as technology advisor means that he will have a hands-on approach to the company once again, at the request of Nadella. “I’m thrilled that Satya has asked me to step up, substantially increasing the time that I spend at the company,” says Gates. “I’ll have over a third of my time available to meet with product groups, and it’ll be fun to define this next round of products working together.” Gates will primarily focus on products and technology.
Thompson also commented on his new role as chairman and how that will impact the company. “The board is always focused on long-term success of this great company and takes seriously its responsibilities to shareholders to assure long-term success. As part of my new role one of my key contributions, I hope, will be to engage with shareholders and keep focused on how together we can bring great innovation to the market and drive strong long-term shareholder value.”
Ballmer released a video this morning welcoming Nadella, in his usual high-energy style that he is well known for. “I have absolutely no doubt that Microsoft is in good hands,” says Ballmer.
“With Satya in place and with the rest of that strong team, the future of Microsoft is incredibly bright and I’m just very excited about it. I’m certainly open to helping Satya in any way that I can.”
“I know Satya will lead this company into the future and the future is going to be bright with innovation, with growth, and with impact in the market and on the world. I love this company and today could be a better day,” he adds.
Ballmer’s statement, particularly because it was released as an official Microsoft video, makes people wonder if there might be a role for him under Nadella in some sort of capacity, despite his official retirement as CEO today. However, many of the company’s problems stemmed from the product areas where Ballmer decided to focus Microsoft’s innovation and attention on, which led to them lagging behind in many key market spaces such as search, online advertising, and mobile. As a result, Google has continued to dominate in these areas, with Bing and Bing Ads following in the distance.
Microsoft took a lot of criticism for not jumping on the mobile bandwagon quickly enough and falling behind while iPhones and Android phones dominated the mobile market. It seems Nadella is very aware of this and wants to change. His experiences in the different divisions of Microsoft, including cloud services and search, will hopefully impact their innovation and help them involve.
Nadella wants to bring innovation back to Microsoft, something that Google has definitely excelled in, but Microsoft has lagged behind in doing the same. “The first thing I want to do and focus on is ruthlessly remove any obstacles that allow us to innovate, every individual in the organization to innovate. And then focus all the innovation on things that Microsoft can uniquely do. We are the company that enables people to do more, to play, get more fun, create more.”
When Nadella was asked about the innovation, he definitely focused on the cloud and mobile world as places where Microsoft needs to have more impact. “Going forward, it’s a mobile-first, cloud-first world. In other words everything is becoming digital and software driven,” says Nadella. “And so I think of the opportunities being unbounded and we need to be able to pick the unique contributions that we want to bring and that’s where our heritage of being the productivity company to now being the do more company where we get every individual and every organization to get more out of every moment of their lives is what we want to get focus on.”
There have been big changes happening at Microsoft that began under Ballmer, including agency contract reviews under their “One Microsoft” idea so that various verticals were no longer competing against each other. With new leadership in place, and with Gates back as a technology advisor, it’s unclear how the many changes will continue or be reverted.
Microsoft has also been heavily critical of Google in their Scroogled campaign, which while it got the idea of Google and privacy in many people’s minds, it left a bad taste with others about a company like Microsoft going after Google. It was a campaign that had been previously suspended, and it will be interesting to watch and see if it continues under Nadella.