CEO Satya Nadella Willing to Shed the Past and Reinvent Microsoft

| Analysis

Newly-installed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has offered the first hint that he is ready and willing to ditch the Windows legacy and move Microsoft into a sustainable and relevant future. In a letter to employees, Mr. Nadella dropped the "devices and services" mantra of his predecessor, Steve Ballmer, and called Microsoft a "productivity" company for a "mobile-first and cloud-first world."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadells
Source: Microsoft

From the letter:

More recently, we have described ourselves as a 'devices and services' company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

This is momentous, and frankly it's made me think for the first time that Microsoft can reinvent itself. I have argued many times that Microsoft had allowed itself to become bogged down by its Windows legacy, and that the fear of losing that legacy was preventing the company from offering relevant tools for the future.

I am by no means sure that Satya Nadella can successfully change course for his tech behemoth, but the letter shows us he is at least willing to try.

"The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition," he wrote, "it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done."

Compare that to the hogwash Mr. Ballmer continually tried to foist off on the world. All that nonsense about Windows everywhere and one experience across all devices [whether or not the devices in question are suited for one another]. As Time noted, Windows isn't even mentioned until the 23rd paragraph. Instead of obsessing about Windows, Satya Nadella wrote at length about how productivity is his company's key asset. From the piece:

Productive people and organizations are the primary drivers of individual fulfilment and economic growth and we need to do everything to make the experiences and platforms that enable this ubiquitous. We will think of every user as a potential 'dual user' – people who will use technology for their work or school and also deeply use it in their personal digital life.

I don't know that I'd personally care to hang my hat on productivity as the end-all, be-all, but it's so much better than pretending anyone actually cares about Windows. That willful denying of reality long ago cost Microsoft its claim to any kind of leadership in the tech industry.

Next: Righting the Ship

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Comments

Daniel Su

Why do you care about how Microsoft runs. This is a Apple website not a website that expresses bias opinions, But either way Still too early to make such a judgement anyway, so I don’t see the point in your article

Jamie

Because they are a part of the technological landscape, and because they were formerly the Goliath of the industry. It’s also relevant because of their history with Apple - they began writing software for Apple machines, way back when before there was such a thing as ‘Windows’. Know your history. wink

mrmwebmax

+

@Daniel Su, TMO has always written about Microsoft, just as they write about Google, Android, Samsung, etc. As Jamie said, they’re part of the technological landscape, and have a long and complex history with Apple as both a fire competitor and a developer of Mac software like Office. I know that I speak for volumes of Mac users who will be forever grateful for Office: Mac, because without it I don’t think Macs would stand a chance in the enterprise. I certainly need to know my Word, PPT, and Excel files will be compatible with Windows-using execs at my day job, else I’d be spending a lot more time on my Win 7 machine.

This really goes to the heart of the article. Microsoft really is all about productivity, and I think porting Office to iOS shows that Nadella is more interested in productivity tools than protecting Windows, or even Surface. I doubt that ever would have happened under Ballmer. It will be interesting to see where MS goes from here.

aardman

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Some lessons from Microsoft:

1.  You need to be ready, willing, and eager to lose your customers and win them back all over again every time the chance to improve your product line arises.

2.  Monopoly is like heroin, no matter how good it makes you feel, in the end, it will kill you.  Years of monopoly-induced self-delusion led to Microsoft to lose the institutional knowledge of how to distinguish a bad product from a good product.  That is, bad from the customers’ point of view.

I predict the jettisoning of the handset division in a few years.  Maybe months.

wab95

A very nicely articulated and thoughtful article, Bryan.

Daniel Su raises a relevant question to your piece’s rationale; why should a site devoted to Apple’s activities allot a single pixel-worth of print to MS and their developments?

It’s very simple. Not only does MS not have to lose, as SJ once stated, in order for Apple to win, but more relevant to the present, Apple doesn’t gain by MS’s loss. Indeed, if the present post-PC era has taught us nothing else, we have observed (okay, some of us have anyway) that the industry and its developments are brought forward with greater speed and at better cost to the consumer when buoyed on the wings of multiple players. The efficiency of this movement is further benefited when those players engage in complementarity of product and offering.

What the industry requires, I believe, are two things:

1) Multiple companies competing on common fronts in the hardware and software spaces, with an eye towards integration of these two wings into a single, secure and harmonious system of products and services. IP thieves, plagiarists and copy-cats contribute nothing here. Not calling out any names here.

2) Increasing complementarity between companies who begin to specialise in key areas of those products and services with an eye towards common standards and cross-platform compatibility, so that clients who like one ecosystem can still port other elements from other vendors with a superior product or service into their personal solution as needed.

Apple, as do all other companies, need not simply the competition from MS on certain fronts, but their shoulder to the common weal as an independent and strong contributor, in order to provide their own best contributions. More importantly, we the consumers need multiple, robust contributing companies in order to live in a sustainable, rich tech environment characterised by choice at reasonable cost.

Bob Faulkner 1

I do not see how Steve Ballmer’s call for Windows on everything is much different from Apple’s call of start a conversation here, pick it up there – start it on your phone, pick it up on your Mac. It’s the same thing, really.

RonMacGuy

Bryan,

That picture kind of looks like Satya is chanting “Developers, developers, developers.”

grin

But seriously, what an odd picture.  Is that a candid shot of him, or is it his profile picture?  I can understand not wanting the typical profile picture that most old-time CEOs may have, but what is he trying to express with this?  “Yes!!  I’m finally CEO!!” or “Yeh!!  Ballmer’s finally gone!!” or “Man, these jeans look and feel AWESOME!!”?

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