Public companies exist not to serve the public, a common mistake we all make, but the first and foremost the shareholders. Microsoft is no different in this respect. In the fast-moving and sexy world of technology, commentators and the public seem to forget this.
The very public search for a new CEO at Microsoft highlighted the public’s need to know, and speculate, on how this behemoth of a tech company, one that essentially reshaped technology for the everyman, was going to choose a successor to Steve Ballmer.
The wait is over and a long time Microsofter in the form of Satya Nadella is the chosen man. There was also a shuffling at board level, in order to make the change both seamless and strategic. Bill Gates is out as chairman and in as a strategic advisor, along with Steven Ballmer who is out as CEO with immediate effect, and in as (guess what) a strategic advisor, although admittedly for only a short while.
Business rules once again, and the key is continuity, continuity of profits that is. Despite missing the mobile boat and perhaps in spite of being behind the curve of bring your own device (BYOD) and consumerisation of business tech, Microsoft have remained very profitable and very influential in shaping the technology agenda globally.
Old and new
The focus under Steve Ballmer was enterprise and business, with consumer losing out overall. The new focus and the message from the outgoing Ballmer appears to be on consumer and mobile. The recent acquisition of Nokia devices along with added push on Windows 8.1 and Windows mobile underscore this apparent refocusing of Microsoft strategy.
The challenge for the board during this time of reinvention was how to protect the bottom line so ably managed by Steve Ballmer and yet move ahead and keep Microsoft at the forefront of the new tech reality.
It’s therefore interesting that its answer was Nadella, 22 year veteran of Microsoft. After all, with names like Stephen Elop to Qualcomm’s Steve Mollenkopf being floated around, you could have been forgiven for placing a bet on the new CEO being called Steven, whatever the spelling. Then again, that may just be my bias as a Steven.
The world of computing is in the midst of a revolution or at the very least reinvention. Mobile or mobility, no matter the actual device you use to compute, is coming to dominate the landscape.
Connectivity is fast taking over as the key enabler of all this mobility, and computing is evolving from the desktop to the cloud. How we connect and compute is driven by a simple paradigm. And that is software. Ans who knows software better than Microsoft?
Also in Nadella’s favour is the fact that he’s the man who led Microsoft in its move to cloud computing with Azure, and has played a pivotal role in many of the various changes and reinventions at Microsoft for over the past 22 years.
A company as complex and diverse as Microsoft is no easy company to lead. Many out in the markets opined that fresh blood would be needed to successfully reinvent Microsoft and lead it fully into the devices and services world.
What the Microsoft board and current management knows only too well, and most overlooked, is that there needs to be some base to serve all the devices and services that are coming to dominate popular consciousness.
Without infrastructure level computing and the ability to serve the cloud with enterprise scale computing of global reach, nothing would succeed.
Microsoft has transitioned over the years off the desktop into the corporate serve market and now successfully into the global cloud of distributed computing. Nadella intimately understands and appreciates all this.
The money-making machinery of Microsoft might be looking to show a cool and gadget-loving face for the public but deep down it knows that Microsoft — which is a dominant and enterprise facing organisation with deep cloud credentials — is currently well-placed to be fully in control of the future of technology led by consumer facing technologies.
Business will adopt, co-opt and drive the consumer trends for best impact on the corporate bottom line. Cool tech will become business tech and all technology will fade into the background of just doing business, and living your life, in the hyper connected, intertwined world, of modern technology.
The choice of Sataya Nadella was inspired, and very strategic, in with the new and on with business as usual. Complete with fresh energy and focus, from a man who has paid his dues and shown that he understands the new era of technology at a fundamental level.
Far more critically though he helped define and grow that vision from the inside at Microsoft Satya Nadella, and the board at Microsoft, will be part of the drive to make Microsoft a key player in the new era of cloud based, software driven, mobile, technologically based future.
Image: LeWeb via Flickr.