Nadella leaves no doubt about who is in charge in first six months as CEO

He's had his share of hits and misses but he's made his presence felt from the start

Nadella oversaw as well the launch of Windows Phone 8.1, a major update of the smartphone OS, which comes with the voice-controlled Cortana digital assistant, Microsoft's response to Apple's Siri and Google's Now, and with other major enhancements.

He also ushered in an update to Windows 8.1 aimed at disgruntled desktop users who had complained that Windows 8 and the first Windows 8.1 rev were inconvenient to use with mice and keyboards.

However, much work remains to be done on both OSes. Microsoft is reportedly working on the next major version of Windows. And the future is uncertain for Windows RT, the version of the OS for devices with ARM chips.

"He has to right the ship when it comes to Windows 8," Gold said. "While I don't see it as a total disaster as some have said, I do think that unless the next version of Windows addresses all the usability and functionality concerns of users, which will help adoption and quell the bad press, that Microsoft is going to face increasingly stiff competition -- from Apple to Android to ChromeOS -- as users try to find a compute environment they feel more comfortable with."

Nadella's first semester also included the end of support for Windows XP in early April, which had been announced years ago but still caused much controversy, due to the immense installed base of the trusty but ancient desktop OS. Microsoft stood its ground, sticking with its plan to end XP support, despite pleas from many for an extension.

Financials

Under Nadella, Microsoft's earnings reports so far have been viewed as solid, if not necessarily stellar. Nadella was appointed CEO about a month into the third quarter, which ended with revenue coming in at $20.40 billion, down from $20.49 billion a year earlier. Net income was $5.7 billion, down from $6.1 billion. However, Microsoft's results matched the revenue consensus forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters and exceeded their earnings-per-share estimate.

Meanwhile, revenue shot up 18 percent in the fourth quarter, although profit shrunk. Revenue for that quarter, ended June 30, was $23.4 billion, ahead of the consensus analyst estimate of $23 billion. The revenue figure included $2 billion from the Nokia Devices and Services business that Microsoft acquired. The Nokia business, however, dragged down profit with an $0.08-per-share loss. Total net income was $4.6 billion, down from $4.9 billion a year earlier, and below analysts' consensus expectation.

On balance, shareholders seem to be giving Nadella a vote of confidence. Company shares, which were hovering around $37 right before his appointment, have been in the $43 range in recent days. Whether that optimism lasts will depend on the fruits of Nadella's strategy.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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