In a 2012 interview, Satya Nadella, the man chosen to be Microsoft’s new CEO, said his daughters often failed to understand what he was doing at work. That was when he was leading the cloud and developer tools verticals of Microsoft. “Now I tell them, ‘I work on Windows but it’s not the Windows you see,” he was quoted as having said in the interview. By choosing the “affable”, middle-aged Indian about whom everyone has only nice things to say, Redmond could be sending a message to the world. A message that resonates in what Nadella tells his daughters, a message about shifting to the Windows you don’t see.
The Windows that we all see, despite commanding over 90 per cent of the market share, has not been doing really well in recent times. Remember, the unassailable market share is essentially in the PC market which has started shrinking as common communication-driven computing starts moving to platforms like Android. Five years down the line, Microsoft might have fever traditional PCs to lord over as people would have shifted to newer, cheaper, more easy to use devices.
However, it would be hard to take Microsoft out of enterprises and enterprise computing, unless some major disruptor comes around soon. That has been Nadella’s core area and it would be no surprise that with him at the helm, Microsoft might just think of holding on to that base with innovations that make professional computing safer and more cost effective. The company has for some time been under pressure to hive of some of its verticals like gaming, and a decision whether the company chooses a path that reduced its visibility to consumers while not hitting its bottom line could be on top of the new CEO’s agenda.
Microsoft has a big opportunity on this front in the form of Nokia, its new acquisition from Finland which has as much, or even more, brand recollect the world over. With its first hardware venture, the Windows 8 Surface tablets, not really setting the cash registers ringing, it could be a good idea to shift that headache to the guys who know a bit more about that business. Microsoft’s mobile operating system is already synonymous with Nokia’s Lumia devices and if the world see a radical move towards mobile computing, then the visibility of Windows could soon be more on the post-PC devices that traditional computers.
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His deep technical background often means a lot of people, especially those who are not engineers like him, don’t really understand what he is talking about. But this attribute could also help him drive innovation in the core businesses of Microsoft, an area in which the company has of late lagged behind a bit. Computing it changing like never before, an innovation is the only thing that can keep companies ahead of the race and continue to surprise consumers who are now a more demanding lot. That would need the company to take risks like never before.
If the Windows 8 launch was any indicator, the company did not really have the guts to take the big risks and think out of the box. But despite his penchant for doing stuff that other might not, there are those who feel an outsider might have been able to pinpoint areas that needed action much more than someone who has been part of the system for over two decades.
To prove them wrong could be Nadella’s biggest opportunity.