Nadella channelling Zuckerberg (photo: Microsoft)
Executive biographies keep a low profile on most company websites. Not so at Microsoft, which has been showing off its new chief executive, Satya Nadella, on a special microsite of the kind usually used to hawk things that consumers can actually buy. This is unlikely to persuade anyone to buy a PC or a Surface tablet. What, then, is the point?
Visitors see a list of Mr Nadella’s qualifications (Education: BS, MSCS, MBA; Hobbies: poetry). A video shows the new CEO answering questions such as “Why do you think Microsoft is going to be successful?”, which gives you an idea of how useful he might be in a boardroom. The blurb strikes an aspirational tone: “Nadella wanted to complete his master’s degree and take the Microsoft job. He did both.”
New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has produced an opening memo to employees that is rich in repetitive rhetoric but short on substance. Here is what he really meant.
From: Satya Nadella
To: All Employees
Date: Feb. 4, 2014
Subject: RE: Satya Nadella – Microsoft’s New CEO
Today is a very humbling day for me.
“Humility” is the appropriate tone for CEOs these days, but, believe me, when I got the nod I was punching the air like Steve Ballmer on an adrenaline high.
Windows 8: unfairly maligned (Bloomberg)
Windows 8 – which runs on the family computer I bought last year – is growing on me. Maybe I should not let its roots go too deep, though. Unconfirmed blog chatter claims that Microsoft plans to move on from the tile-based, touchscreen operating system and plant Windows 9 (codenamed Threshold) as early as next year.
Mustang Mulally: the Ford CEO, in a 2015 Ford Mustang (Getty Images)
Alan Mulally has a reputation for being decisive, so his declaration that he has “no plans to do anything other than serve Ford” – crushing speculation that he could leave to run Microsoft – should probably be taken at face value.
But Ford’s chief executive has wavered over big jobs before – notably when the carmaker was trying to lure him to Dearborn from Boeing in 2006.
BlackBerry’s belated decision to focus on corporate customers, amid the uncertainty over its future, is further evidence of how hard it is to bridge the gap between business and retail markets in mobile.
Both Microsoft and BlackBerry have been stranded by the shift toward consumer power in buying mobile devices. Individuals are no longer happy to take the smartphones their employers want.
First came Ben & Jerry’s. Now we have a new brand: Steve & Stephen. It sounds like a men’s hairdressing salon, but turns out to be the sign-off used by Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop in their open letter telling the world that Steve at Microsoft has bought Stephen’s Nokia handsets.
The effect leaves me feeling slightly queasy. The ampersand usually belongs to more formal pairings – Johnson & Johnson or Dun & Bradstreet – and to see it joining two first names like that gives the new “brand” a cheeky, snappy feel.
Steve Ballmer. Image by Getty.
No chief executive wants the company’s shares to jump sharply on the news that he or she is stepping down.
Pent-up relief, however, was the reaction to Steve Ballmer’s decision to retire as Microsoft chief executive within a year.
It has been a long time coming. Mr Ballmer has struggled mightily since becoming the boss in 2000 to keep Microsoft at the front of the computing and software industry, but has allowed it to be eclipsed by Google and Apple.
In the browser wars that began in the 1990s, it took more than a decade for regulators to stop Microsoft exploiting its dominance with users of Windows software. In today’s mobile battles, customers have done so themselves in six months. Microsoft’s rapid retreat over Windows 8 – the latest, mobile-inspired, version of its operating software – shows wise flexibility rather than its traditional obstinacy. But it also demonstrates that Steve Ballmer, the company’s chief executive, has lost the power to “embrace and extend” the Windows hegemony into new fields.