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Out of Bill's shadow: How CEO Satya Nadella can reinvent Microsoft

An industry-renowned tech analyst on the challenges and opportunities ahead for Microsoft's new CEO.

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With Kevin Turner staying on as COO, and Gates tasked with new products and services, it's clear that the search team came up with a formula — not just a person — to take the company forward.

Whether new tech vision comes from Nadella himself, or from Bill or others, the key issue that now gets fixed, to my opinion, is this: Nadella will have the background to evaluate future paths based on technology, and not just sales.

This could make all the difference in Microsoft's future.

As others have pointed out, it is likely also to help expand and strengthen the company's developer community, which was the backbone of its power and success from the beginning.

4. "Mobile First, Cloud First."

This mantra of Nadella's is both reassuring and surprising. Not long ago, Steve Ballmer initiated the new "Devices and Services" mantra to describe the firm — a term that Nadella pays homage to at the end of one of his new video appearances. 

The problem? Microsoft is not currently leading in either of these new chosen fields. This implies two things: First, Nadella recognizes their importance and is willing to put some chips on the table, before he has won the hand (a big plus); and second, Nadella is planning on pivoting the company (or continuing Ballmer's recent pivot) toward mobile.

But as Nadella points out in a different video, "mobile" does not necessarily mean "phone". It also includes a lot of wireless connections in the booming Internet of Things, a term which describes the growing connectivity of objects. In other words, there is a lot of mobility in the future of the enterprise. 

Even so, on almost every level, the question of how Microsoft lives in a world increasingly driven by wireless tablets and phones is something that will ultimately determine the company's path. The Microsoft that fails to gain serious market share in smartphones and tablets is a radically different company, with a radically different future, than the Microsoft driving smartphones and tablets.

5. Security.

Microsoft has moved over the last few years from being a company that was increasingly serious about security (releasing Windows Security Essentials and Windows Defender, after years without such products) to one that now seems obsessed with it. This is good, because Windows, as the largest computing platform, is automatically the largest cyber target.

The company, under general counsel Brad Smith, has for years supported stronger IP protection and fought global piracy. The recent opening of Microsoft's Cybercrime Center adds another dimension of commitment to this critically important struggle.

This is a huge market opportunity for Microsoft, and one which, technically, unifies the consumer and enterprise markets. Nadella seems to understand this: In one of his first in-company interviews, he terms the importance of cross-platform security "non-negotiable."

For this reason, I would expect to see some powerful statements from Nadella in the first half of this year on security, its increasingly important role and other things the company is doing to earn corporate and consumer trust in everything from credit cards and online transactions to NSA-proof communications and enterprise security.

6. Competition.

The CEO switch comes at a time when there are large power shifts on a global economic scale, and changes in the competitive landscape, not to mention Steve Ballmer's apparent shift toward the consumer side of the equation with the purchase of Nokia.

For Microsoft, and for Nadella, the competition is in flux, which makes doing a major pivot toward consumer a higher risk, but with possibly higher reward.

Let's break down the new mobile landscape: Steve Jobs is out of Apple, Samsung is running out of things to copy and Hewlett-Packard is not obviously clear on what it will be someday. Dell is now private, Lenovo is buying up all the dead U.S. parts it can find, and Huawei, ZTE and Xiaomi are growing in the phone business thanks to the size of the domestic Chinese market.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Feb 10, 2:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Microsoft's top management and key innovation teams should move to the Bay Area, for all the reasons explained here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2014/02/10/should-microsoft-move-from-redmond-to-san-francisco/

Several thousand code monkeys could remain at the terminals in Redmond. That would be efficient. The top talent needs to be with its peers though, and that's south of SF.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Feb 12, 8:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Apple, Google, Android are powerhouse innovators.

Microsoft, not so much.

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