Satya Nadella: The challenge awaiting Microsoft's new CEO

Feb 5, 2014

Bill Gates endorses Nadella, but some say his presence will undermine confidence in the new boss

THE appointment of Microsoft veteran Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft Corp has been met with a muted response from tech analysts, many of whom regard the 46-year-old as a "safe pick", The Guardian reports. 

Microsoft announced the appointment with a glossy web page, detailing Nadella's professional experience as well as some brief biographical information, including his love of cricket and poetry.

Nadella becomes just the third CEO in Microsoft's 39-year history after the resignation of Steve Ballmer, who announced he was leaving in August last year.

At the same time as the appointment, Bill Gates announced that he had stepped down as chairman of the board, to return to a more central position within the company, as "technology adviser". Some believe that Gates will use the role to mentor Nadella through his early days at the helm of the Silicon Valley company.

Will the incoming CEO be successful? ITProPortal says that Nadella's lack of experience on the device side of the business may prove problematic. "Given his background, Nadella is well suited to the services portion of Microsoft's recent realignment towards 'devices and services', but he is definitely a bit lacking on the devices side of the equation. He will presumably be bolstered by Bill Gates' glorious return to active duty (he will now be spending 'a third of his time' in the office), and Stephen Elop, who is being re-consumed as part of the Nokia acquisition."

The Wall Street Journal says that Gates's new position within the company could stymie Nadella's ability to innovate, and indicates that the company may not have total confidence in their new CEO: "(Gates's) return raises questions as to how free a hand Mr Nadella will have in setting his own strategy as the company responds to an array of business challenges," the paper suggests.

Not everyone is so sceptical about Microsoft's appointment. Cade Metz, writing for Wired says that Nadella is definitely the right man for the job. "According to those who know him, Nadella has an unusually firm grasp of both the technical and the business side of Microsoft, yet he also has a knack for pushing the tech giant in new directions. That bodes well for the company, which is still struggling to match the commercial success of rivals like Apple, Google, and Amazon in the technological areas most likely to define the future, including cloud computing as well as the rapidly growing world of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices."

Many tech bloggers believe Nadella may struggle to achieve his ambition, but Metz says the Microsoft stalwart may be able to deliver where outgoing CEO Ballmer failed by tapping into the expertise already present within the company.

"Considering that the company was so slow to find its footing in the cloud and mobile markets under Ballmer, this is a welcome change," Metz says. "Ballmer's 14-year tenure is littered with missed opportunities, as he clung to Microsoft's old way of doing things. As the press so often points out, Nadella knows his technology, perhaps more so than Ballmer. But the bigger point, some say, is that Nadella can feed the other technical minds at Microsoft."

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