Microsoft’s board on Tuesday named Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella as chief executive of the legendary tech giant that has given the world products which have become household names like Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook Express. The announcement elevates Nadella, an offspring of the Indian system, to one of the highest-profile corporate jobs globally.
The elevation of Nadella, a company insider for 22 years (he recently joked that he has also been married for 22 years), was expected once heavyweight outsiders like Ford’s Alan Mulally and Nokia’s Stephen Elop dropped out or were passed up. The names of Google’s Sundar Pichai and Motorola’s previous CEO Sanjay Jha also briefly made the rounds, serving to highlight the intensity of PIOs breaking the glass ceiling, something that began some two decades ago, but has become more pronounced now.
In picking Nadella, Microsoft directors selected both a company insider and an engineer. It has often been noted that Microsoft was more successful under the leadership of Gates, a programmer and its first chief executive, than it was under Ballmer, who had a background in sales.
Satya Nadella now finds himself the head of an icon of American business that has struggled for position in big growth markets like mobile and Internet search. The company has correctly anticipated many of the biggest changes in technology — the rise of smartphones and tablet computers, to use two examples — but it has often fumbled the execution of products developed to capitalize on those changes.
It remains to be seen whether Nadella’s technical background, along with the closer involvement of Gates in product decisions, will give the company an edge it lacked during the Ballmer years. Microsoft said in a statement that Gates will “devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.”
Relinquishing his role as chairman will allow Gates to spend over a third of his time with product groups at Microsoft, “substantially increasing my time at the company,” he said in a video made for the news of Nadella’s selection. Gates said Nadella asked him to make the change in his duties at Microsoft.