The search for Microsoft’s next CEO, since Steve Ballmer announced his retirement, has seen more twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride at an amusement park. The list of candidates from outside Microsoft has all but withered down with some publicly denouncing their interest while some others getting elevated to head their current company. But the long drawn saga could finally be coming to an end as reports surfaced yesterday that Microsoft is likely to announce Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella as its next CEO. Here’s a look at what the current head of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division brings to the table and what direction the company could take under only its third CEO in the company’s 38-year history.
To start with, Microsoft’s decision to promote an insider rather than hiring someone from outside could be viewed as an uninspiring move by many. Especially since, in Ballmer’s words, “the company is in need of fresh blood.” At first glance, Nadella might not be the fresh blood everyone expected, but he is respected inside the company and the tech industry and could well surprise many.
Nadella was born in Hyderabad in 1967 and after his initial schooling in India, moved to the US to earn a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin and then an MBA at the University of Chicago. He began his career at Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle), before heading to Microsoft in 1992, where he has remained for 22 years.
Starting off at Microsoft’s R&D centre for the Online Services Division, Nadella has headed quite a few divisions including the $19 billion Server and Tools Business. But generally, he is recognized as the “cloud guru,” who has a firm understanding of the power of cloud and knows how things like Bing, Microsoft 365, Skype and Xbox Live among other works. On the back of an impressive quarter, Microsoft’s CPO Kevin Turner revealed how cloud services were growing at more than 100 percent year-over-year and the customers were openly embracing services like Office 365.
As far as personality goes, he is far from the boisterous Steve Ballmer and such a change could work well for the company as it goes through a transitional phase. As the company moves towards the “One Microsoft” brand — where all the businesses and products are merged behind a single brand and a single vision — it is necessary for all internal issues to be solved to make the transition smooth. Herein lays another of Nadella’s strengths, as he is known as a person who can make warring clans inside a company resolve all differences and work together.
Apart from slowing PC shipments and the state of Windows operating system, Nadella’s biggest challenge would be to execute the company’s new vision of being a software and devices company. With the acquisition of Nokia expected to complete this quarter itself, within days after his appointment as the CEO (if that happens, that is), Nadella would have to oversee Nokia’s integration with Microsoft – two completely culturally different companies.