Microsoft has appointed the cricket and poetry-loving Satya Nadella as its new chief executive to help take the company into technology’s new era of cloud computing and mobile devices.
Although it made its name and fortune by creating products and services for the old world dominated by the personal computer, the appointment of the India-born executive is a sign that Microsoft sees cloud, mobile, web and other markets as the future.
Mr Nadella, 46, has worked at Microsoft for 22 years and his job was running its cloud and enterprise division. He has also excelled at mastering the firm’s products and services in unglamorous back-office corporate technology.
“Satya has got the right background to lead the company during this era,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder. “There is a challenge in mobile computing. There is an opportunity in the cloud.”
Mr Nadella has asked Gates to be his adviser on technology in the new role, and the new CEO will also have the support of a tech industry veteran, John Thompson, who replaces Gates as Microsoft’s chairman. Gates will stay on Microsoft’s board and ironically will now spend more time in his advisory role. He stopped day-to-day work for the firm in 2008 to focus on philanthropy.
Mr Nadella is only the company’s third CEO, following Steve Ballmer, who stands down immediately, and Gates himself. He faces massive challenges, not least masterminding the company’s integration with Nokia’s mobile phones unit, which it bought last year. He will also have to address any attempts by activist shareholders to force Microsoft to break itself up.
He 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.”
The new boss needs to make sure Microsoft maintains its positions in its traditionally dominant products of Windows, Microsoft Office and related software that run corporate computer systems – but also see new opportunities faster than in the past.
Mr Nadella reckons he learned as much about management from playing cricket at school in Hyderabad as anywhere else. “Perhaps more than anything, I think playing cricket... taught me more about working in teams and leadership that has stayed with me throughout my career,” he has said.