This is who I think Microsoft’s next CEO will be and why

Unless you’ve been living under a very big, wi-fi resistant rock, you know that Microsoft has been in the market looking for a CEO.

There have been many names bandied around and it’s been a very public, almost caricaturist process. The press has had a field day speculating about which CEO from another company would leave their job.

Some of the names that have been wildly speculated about are Stephen Elop, Alan Mulally from Ford, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf, Skype Leader Tony Bates, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner and others.

I think that most of those names are interesting but were unlikely candidates for one reason or another.

I thought Alan Mulally would have been a great choice and was seriously in the running for the gig ( I wrote about that here) but as more time has passed, I changed my mind about him.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally

Ford CEO Alan Mulally


You see I thought that he would be a good selection because Microsoft needs a great business person to run their business.

I spoke about his technology background, business background, marketing savvy and market confidence. All of that remains true but my mind changed for one fundamental reason.

Microsoft is currently a pretty sound business. In fact, they’re doing pretty well and making good numbers.

As Mary Jo Foley pointed out in the preamble to her interview with Steve Ballmer, Mr. Ballmer has actually been a fantastic financial steward of Microsoft’s treasures. You can look at any financial graph showing the length of his tenure and you’ll see that it’s been a slow and steady upward ride.

Maybe too slow for some investors but hey, those dudes are never satisfied. Bottom line is, a business whiz is not necessarily what Microsoft needs right now.

While the next CEO will need to be somebody who has a grasp on the numbers, business acumen will by necessity have to be a secondary skill.

In my humble opinion, the next CEO will have to be someone who is a visionary and knows INSTINCTIVELY where Microsoft needs to go next.

This instinct will have to be shaped by the following:

  • Understanding the company’s culture
  • Understanding the company’s failings
  • Understanding long term trends
  • Comprehension of futuristic technology
  • Ability to run a business or significant business unit
  • Understanding where Microsoft is right now in this moment and understanding where the company needs to be in 10 to 20 years

and more…

When I look at that list, it seems obvious to me that this is not a Microsoft outsider but a successful insider.

My choice would be (drumroll)…

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella seems to be the right choice for this job.

The cliff notes..

Mr. Nadella holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.

In addition he also holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication from the Manipal University.

He worked with Sun Microsystems before he joined Microsoft in 1992.

In Microsoft, in the beginning he worked as the senior vice president of R&D for the Online Services Division and vice president of the Microsoft Business Division.

Later, he was made the president of Microsoft’s $19 billion Server and Tools Business and led the transformation of the business and technology from client-server software to cloud infrastructure and services.

Wikipedia

Microsofts description of the man says a lot:

Satya Nadella is executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, responsible for building and running the company’s computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services[Emphasis Mine].

Nadella and his team deliver the “Cloud OS”, Microsoft’s next generation backend platform. Designed for modern application needs, the Cloud OS is a rich, consistent platform that spans public, private and service provider clouds. The Cloud OS platform also not only powers all of Microsoft’s Internet scale cloud services (including O365, Bing, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, Skype and Dynamics) but also fuels global enterprises around the world to meet their most challenging and mission-critical computing needs. Today, businesses everywhere depend on the products that make up the Cloud OS, including Windows Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio and System Center.

Previously, Nadella was president of Microsoft’s $19 billion Server and Tools Business and led the transformation of the business and technology from client-server software to cloud infrastructure and services. Prior roles include senior vice president of R&D for the Online Services Division and vice president of the Microsoft Business Division.

Microsoft

If you spend any time watching Microsoft’s numbers or on Financial speculation and analysis sites like Seeking Alpha, you’ll know that Mr. Nadella’s portion of the business is ROCK SOLID.

Microsoft’s back office portfolio has pretty much been the backbone of the business for a while and that is where Mr. Nadella sits.

He runs a huge, successful business unit, has been there for 22 years and understands cloud technology. I think he’s the one I would go with. He’s the safe bet at this point and only if he cataclysmically melted down would I choose an outsider.

Bottom line is, for all the bravado and talk about new leadership, I simply don’t think Microsoft is ready for an outsider. I can make the case for fresh blood with the best of them but I think at the end of the day, Microsoft is a legacy company.

It kind of feels right for the torch to be passed from insider to insider, sink or swim.

Maybe I’m a dreamer. We’ll have to wait and see.

What do you think? Who should be the next Microsoft CEO?

Use the comments below….

UPDATE – as of 1/7 – Mulally’s out. – See link here.

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