Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise chief Satya Nadella was officially named the company’s new CEO today, and the tech industry has responded in force. Former Microsoft employees and executives (including Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates), as well as analysts and financial firms, have all put their two cents in about the new hire.
What ex-Microsoft employees are saying
Dave Mendlen, CMO of Infragistics, former Microsoft product management director and speechwriter for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer:
“Satya is the perfect next CEO. Why? He is the best parts of Bill—hyper technical, which this engineering-led company needs, along with the best parts of Steve—a brilliant business mind who can connect with the enterprise. Perfect. But no one will ever replace Steve!”
Sam Ramji, former head of open-source software at Microsoft:
“If you’re looking for your most Gates-like president—in terms of really having technology genius plus business genius—Satya seems like the best bet.”
Bill Hilf, VP of converged cloud products and services at HP and former general manager of product management for Windows Azure:
“The reason why I have mountains of respect for Satya is that he’s first and foremost a great and sincere and honest human being… It’s a weird thing to say, but that’s a rare thing at Microsoft, because you have so many hardcore technologists who have risen up through the ranks. He is able to connect with people, understand the dynamics between people or understand the impact something might have—not just to a product but to the people involved with it.”
Analysts give their take
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group:
“They needed someone that knew Microsoft’s strengths and weaknesses intimately and that could hit the ground running with a light hand so that what wasn’t broken didn’t get broken. Satya has immediately demonstrated his grasp of the problem by placing Bill Gates in a product role where he can become more of an asset then the liability he was as chairman.
“As chairman, [Gates] wasn’t really engaged yet he seemed to cast a cloud over any timely product effort. For instance, he effectively killed the Microsoft Courier tablet, which would have been far more effective (done right) against the iPad because it didn’t initially run Office, yet he wasn’t really missioned in a product creation role. In his new role, Bill can be leveraged even if he doesn’t engage because Satya can assure the team underneath gets the job done and still had Gates’ name behind the decision to assure implementation. Gates is almost a god at Microsoft and Satya has positioned Gates to use that power rather than have Gates undermine him.
“Finally, by choosing a top performer to fill the CEO role, Microsoft assures succession, which helps retain executives and keeps key executive skills inside the company helping assure the firm’s strategic success.”
Ted Schadler, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research:
“[Microsoft] has to port Office to iPad, they have to do it,” said Schadler. “That’s an important, immediate decision that Satya’s going to have to drive. Satya’s never run a P&L [profit and loss statement] as big as Microsoft, so this is a bit of an unproven step up. Dealing in the public markets is a big new challenge for him, so he’s got a lot learning to do and will require coaching, and this is where the board of directors intersects.”
A financial perspective
Daniel H. Ives of FBR Capital Markets:
“Since Mr. Ballmer announced his intent to retire last August, there has been rampant speculation and optimism that Microsoft would use this as a golden opportunity to bring in an outsider and innovator that could change the direction of the company. Instead, the board looked right down the hall from Mr. Ballmer’s office and found its next CEO with a core/homegrown Microsoft insider.
“While we view Mr. Nadella as the ‘safe pick’ (vs. an outsider, Mr. Elop), as Microsoft continues down the right lane of the highway at 55 mph with its new CEO in hand, the fear among many investors is that other tech vendors from social, enterprise, mobile, and the tablet segments continue to easily speed by the company in the left lane of innovation and growth.”
Robert Breza, of investment banking firm Sterne Agee:
“It is well known that CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down. The stock rallied upon the announcement convincing investors that it would result in a fresh perspective to address the tectonic shifts occurring within Microsoft and its markets. Transformational leadership will be needed to address the rapidly changing technology landscape; however, in our opinion, it is unlikely that a new CEO will be able to unlock significant shareholder value in the short term without creating a significant disruption resulting in a downward revision to consensus estimates.
“We believe the Nokia assets acquisition will likely result in distraction rather than a shareholder creation vehicle. Possible upside could be a more aggressive capital reallocation to shareholders; however, it is likely a more a medium-term event.”
The view from within Microsoft’s inner circle:
The top executives at Microsoft have also commented, in video form, on the choice of Nadella and where the company is headed. Founder and new “technology adviser” Bill Gates, outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer, new board chairman John Thompson and Nadella himself have all been vocal in their opinions on the beginning of a new chapter for Microsoft.
For more on the legacy of the now-retired Steve Ballmer, check out our retrospective on the controversial CEO who’s shaped Microsoft for more than 13 years.