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February 6th, 2014

Microsoft: The King Is Dead; Long Live the King

Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, new CEO of Microsoft

So we don’t have Steve Ballmer to kick around anymore. The buffoon is gone. He’s out the door, replaced by Satya Nadella, a 46 or 47 year old geek from India who spent 22 years rising through the ranks at Microsoft to capture Redmond’s top prize as CEO. His starting salary in his new position will be $1.2 million. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

The fact that we don’t know Mr. Nadella’s exact age is telling, revealing a man who has spent his career keeping a low profile and evidently keeping his private life private. We do know that he was born in 1967, the year of the “Summer of Love” to us aging hippies, the same year the Beatles released the Sgt.Pepper’s album. After earning a bachelor’s degree in India, he came to the U.S. where he earned an MS in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He spent a brief period working for Sun before joining the staff at Microsoft in 1992.

At present, nobody seems to have any idea what direction Nadella intends to steer Microsoft as he takes hold of the reins. He comes to the job after serving as the company’s executive VP of cloud and enterprise, so we can assume that his focus will be on building Microsoft’s cloud services. Other than that, we know very little of his plans, other than what he wrote in an email to his employees on his first day in the captain’s seat and his words in a promotional video issued by Microsoft after he was named to the post.

This would certainly seem to be the end of an era at Microsoft. Bill Gates is out as chairman of the board, but will evidently be more active in a new role as “Founder and Technology Advisor.” Microsoft has said that he “will devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.” Other than that, not much is known.

What we can expect to see immediately is probably a very public focus on areas where Microsoft is lagging. Cloud services and mobile will be first on the agenda, I imagine. It’ll be especially interesting to watch what happens with Nokia after it comes fully under Redmond’s control.

More interesting will be whether the company will continue along its monopolistic path. Will Microsoft continue to go-it-alone, or will this new CEO bring us a more open Microsoft than we’ve seen? We can only hope that he will be somewhat more enlightened than Gates and Ballmer and fully embrace open source. If that happens, however, I’m afraid it won’t happen quickly.

However, I don’t think it’ll take long for us to determine whether Nadella is a good guy or whether he represents just more of the same at Microsoft.

Stay tuned…

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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3 comments to Microsoft: The King Is Dead; Long Live the King

  • heldeman

    Steve Jobs died new CEO is not as good. Could be the same with Micrsoft just hope it is not.

  • W. Anderson

    In all probability, Mr. Nadella was fully aware of the the shenanigans, deviousness and (found) illegal and subversive practices of Microsoft during his 22 plus years with the firm.

    Whether he will now, as CEO continue such draconian and unproductive actions is yet to be known, although I suspect as a “true” technologist head of Microsoft, he may be swayed to use “genuine” technical innovation for the first time, instead of relentless use of word “innovation” in market speak to take company forward.

    In any case I wish him the best, providing that Microsoft cease denigrating and attempting to subvert “real” Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) while at the very same time taking advantage of the the significant innovation and technical superiority that FOSS brings to their technology base, and denying the same.

  • an archy

    Who cares what happens to Microsoft. Leave the beast to die in peace.The penguin army is on the march fighting for freedom.