With Satya Nadella succeeding Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO, signs are his suitability for the challenges ahead will likely be debated intensely in the days to come.
Microsoft is keen to transform itself from a software behemoth to a devices and services major. Being an enterprise expert, he is expected to oversee major restructuring under the watchful eyes of new chairman John Thompson and founder Bill Gates (who will continue to be ‘hands-on’ – he has promised to spend a third of his time at the company).
Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India, said, “To appoint a 22-year veteran as CEO – that shows the depth of Microsot leadership talent and the opportunity Microsoft provides.”
Agreed another top-level Microsoft insider. “I strongly believe that Nadella will absolutely live up to the role of CEO, being supported as he is by a very eminent board of directors, new chairman and, of course, Bill Gates. The outlook will have to change for the proposed transformation. This means moving from an OEM supporter to a more customer-facing role, focusing more on areas like retail to take Microsoft from an ‘intangible’ company to a ‘tangible’ one.”
The new retail focus could result in many more Microsoft stores, akin to the Apple stores, as well as the entry of Microsoft-branded phones and other devices to be unveiled as early as May. However, this strategy is yet to gain clarity at a leadership level, says a source who did not wish to be named.
The renewed focus on India is another question in the minds of most consumers reading about the Indian-born CEO of Microsoft.
Pramanik says, “India has been an important part of Microsoft’s growth for over 20 years. With teams engaged in research, development and customer services delivery, India plays an important part in Microsoft’s present and future focus areas of devices and services. As we start this new chapter in our company, India will continue to be an important place for Microsoft.”
Vishal Tripathi, principal research analyst of Gartner, “India has been Microsoft’s focus and they have a large Indian business which would remain a focus area. India has been a strategic partner for a long time and this is a growth market, but they need to align their consumer strategy in a much better manner because the Nadella comes from an enterprise background, so he will need someone who has a better understanding of the consumer and mobile market, which is where there’s still some way to go for Microsoft. However, I think the Nokia acquisition, introducing a sub-Rs 10,000 phone has been a step in the right direction in India.”
On the changes that Nadella could make to redefine the changing face of Microsoft, Tripathi says, “Microsoft never had any brand challenges, but need to get their strategy right in terms of devices and applications ecosystem and they need to expand their horizons, primarily for emerging markets like India, and when the Nokia acquisition is complete we will see more changes – that’s where they need to do a more diligent job. We can expect overall channel expansion, as well as more focus on the Azure cloud platform started by Nadella.”