Satya Nadella has been named as Microsoft’s new CEO, ending months of speculation following Steve Ballmer’s August announcement of his departure. Last week, the rumors about his front-runner status had been getting more and more support from those privy to the board’s deliberations, as I wrote at that time (see Is Microsoft nearing the end of its CEO search?). He was most recently the Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, and last fall I stated that he was the best fit for the job (see Is it Mulally or not? I like Nadella, personally.)
The rumors also suggested that Nadella had the support of Gates, who believed that an insider with deep experience in the engineering culture of Microsoft would have the best chance of making needed changes at the corporation.
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s Founder and Member of the Board of Directors. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”
Since joining the company in 1992, Nadella has spearheaded major strategy and technical shifts across the company’s portfolio of products and services, most notably the company’s move to the cloud and the development of one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world supporting Bing, Xbox, Office and other services. During his tenure overseeing Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business, the division outperformed the market and took share from competitors.
In other changes, Bill Gates has stepped down from the chairman role, which is being assumed by John Thompson, the independent director that led the CEO search. Gates is assuming the new board role of founder and technology advisor, and in recent months he stated that he expects to be working as much as a day a week with whoever were to come aboard as CEO.
Steve Ballmer continues on the board, despite the idea being widely discussed that such a relationship might be difficult for Nadella or any other insider that might assume the CEO spot. My prediction is that he will step down before August of this year.
Now that the other shoe has fallen, we will begin to see what sort of changes Nadella will be making in Microsoft’s foggy future. What does he think about Nokia: is it the key to the future, or a boat anchor threatening to swamp Microsoft’s mobile aspirations? Will Xbox be spun off? Will Bing be shut down? Will he come out and say that enterprise software and cloud are the future of the company? Or will he simply follow the ‘fight every sector’ model that Ballmer set up for the company? I can’t wait to see what happens in the first 90 days.