Satya Nadella was named the new CEO of Microsoft on Feb. 4, 2014, succeeding Steve Ballmer, who spent 14 years at the helm of the multinational tech giant. Bill Gates has also announced that he will be stepping down as Microsoft’s Chairman of the board of directors.
This news comes in the wake of much criticism aimed at Microsoft, mostly for failing to take full advantage of many new tech trends such as search, social networking, and mobile computing–three highly lucrative markets that have been taken over by Google, Facebook, and Apple, respectively.
Before joining Microsoft in 1992, Nadella worked as a member of the technology staff at Sun Microsystems. He was the executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, which has served as one of Microsoft’s best performing divisions in the past few years, before being appointed CEO.
The Microsoft veteran is taking over the CEO position from Ballmer, who announced his resignation on Aug. 23, 2013. Since his appointment in January 2000, Ballmer’s leadership has garnered mixed reviews, due to his mostly unsuccessful attempt at bringing Microsoft’s prestige back to the heights experienced during the PC boom of the early 2000s.
For example, Google has all but wiped out Microsoft in the search market. Microsoft’s share in the search engine market has grown, but only minimally, now that Yahoo! Search is powered by Bing. Google has a comfortable share of 66 percent in the U.S., while Bing is at 15.1 percent, according to the research firm ComScore. Combine that with Google’s immense variety and flexibility of services that link to a single Google account (Google Drive, Calendar, Gmail, Maps, etc.), with everything stored in the cloud, you get one of Microsoft’s mightiest competitors. As for Apple, there’s no denying that they have done very well in the burgeoning tablet market, with iPad sales reaching 26 million units, an all-time quarterly record, according to an Apple press release.
One of Ballmer’s most questionable decisions as CEO was the appointment of political campaign strategist Mark Penn to help develop the anti-Google “Scroogled” marketing campaign. The campaign basically attempted to attack Gmail for Google’s alleged privacy violations, Google’s line of Chromebooks for not being compatible with all Microsoft software, and several other Google products. The campaign failed both in bolstering sales of Microsoft products and putting a dent in Google’s market share. The only thing the campaign drew was media attention, particularly for its negative attacks, highlighting how far Microsoft has fallen behind.
In addition to a change in management, Nadella’s appointment brings about a major change in the role and behavior of the CEO. Ballmer has been famous for his oversized personality and erratic behavior (he once jumped out a cake at Microsoft’s 25th anniversary party and ran around giving people high fives), whereas Nadella has exhibited an understated, calm, and professional demeanor.
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”
Gates himself has also made headlines in the tech world, stepping down as Chairman of the company’s board of directors. Gates will be replaced by Microsoft board member and former Symantec CEO John Thompson. Ballmer and Gates will remain on the board, and Gates will also take on an advisory position to assist Nadella.
“I’m thrilled that Satya has asked me to step up, substantially increasing my time spent at the company. Over a third of my time will be available to work with product groups,” said Gates in a video on the Microsoft YouTube page. “There’s a lot of opportunity in front of us and it’s exciting that we have a strong leader to take us there.”
With all the big changes going on at Microsoft, personnel and otherwise, it’s hard to say what lies ahead. Nadella has stressed that the key to a successful future for Microsoft will be in mobile and cloud computing, two areas in which he has a great deal of experience.
“While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more,” said Nadella in an email to Microsoft’s 100,000+ employees. “Our industry does not respect tradition–it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places–as technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it.”