Five months ago, the student town of Manipal went abuzz when they realized that one of their own was the leading contender in the race for the top job at Microsoft Corp. For the next five months, it looked like their prayers would easily lead to fruition. But late last week, another Indian name came into the fray. While it was a win-win situation for Indians, Redmond had to face a tussle between the two tech-stalwarts who would be resurrecting its lost glory. But in the end Satya Nadella was the man who came out on top.
So, what tilted the decision in favor of Satya? Here are the 7 things, which in our opinion, gave him the edge:
1. A commitment of 22 years: Satya has been with Microsoft for as long as he has been married to Anupama, his wife. By virtue of being in the organization for more than two decades and having seen the highs and the lows, he has a proven tenacity and commitment level. Nadella knows Microsoft and its culture.
2. Alignment of future focus and his domain expertise: In his previous role as the Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, Nadella played a major role in the organization’s transition to the cloud, which is the core infrastructure underlying services such as Windows Azure, Bing, Office 365, and Xbox Live. Today, Azure is putting a notable dent in Amazon’s cloud business.
With him at the helm, one can expect Microsoft to gain more ground in the race.
3. Creating synergy among Microsoft Devices and Services arms:
Quoting Nadella from his December interview with Quartz:
“I think reconceptualizing Microsoft as a devices and services company is absolutely what our vision is all about. Office 365 and Azure on the services side are representative of it. Does that mean we won’t have our software available for other people to build on? No. Windows is available outside of our devices. Windows server is available outside of our data centres. We think that’s important because there will always be distributed computing. But at the same time, there is also the customer expectations that we should complete the scenario. That means running a cloud platform, (is like) running a cloud service. So we’re conceptualising the future of Microsoft along those pivots.”
4. Fostering openness:
Microsoft has traditionally been regarded as a proponent of a closed software ecosystem. That has not helped their cause in the developer circles.
Satya will need to ascertain that Microsoft products and APIs are more open and compatible with other services ecosystems, even with their ‘frenemies’. In a symbolic gesture in June, 2013, at the Microsoft’s Build conference for developers, Satya surprised everyone when he demoed Windows Azure cloud services on a Mac! This surely augurs well for the company’s future as an open ecosystem.
5. He knows how to bring in the revenues: Nadella has already proven his worth by turning around the underperforming Microsoft business solutions division by scaling it from about a stagnant $1.5 billion to more than $5 billion in less than five years.
6. Transforming Microsoft to a platform player: Microsoft needs to become the platform where developers can build the next-gen innovative apps. Right now, Google is the leading player in the platform game. It has achieved this by its three-pronged strategy through Search, Chrome and Android. Many startups like Uber, Instagram, Angry Birds etc have become billion-dollar entities by building upon Apple’s platform.
“So these four things, identity, management, virtualization and application platform I think is the co-investment you’ve got to make to help enterprises truly adopt the cloud while its complex but you have to tame the complexity,” Nadella shared his vision at the Accel Partners Symposium last year.
7. He has the charisma and is liked by the employees:
Satya has the goodwill of his peers and subordinates and is held in high regard among other industry veterans.
Brad Silverberg, SVP at Microsoft from 1990-1999 had this to say about working with him.
“Satya worked for me in the mid-90’s around the time that I was running the Personal Systems Division, the Internet Platform Division, and the Developer Tools Division. Though he was junior at the time, I immediately identified him as a top talent to be mentored and developed. In every meeting I had with him, I would leave the meeting energized. He would say insightful things and then go make them happen. He brings people together, and he is someone other people who’ve worked with him want to see succeed.”
A former strategist at Microsoft, Charles Fitzgerald sums it all up quite succinctly, “Microsoft chews up and spits out new hires in senior roles. He (Nadella) knows where the bodies are buried.”