February 04, 2014, 4:58 PM — At long last, after much searching, a flood of whispered rumors, and more than a little journalistic hand-wringing, Microsoft has found its new CEO: Satya Nadella.
Unless you're a diehard Microsoft observer, the name probably doesn't ring a bell. That won't do. So who is the man who now becomes Microsoft's guiding light for the foreseeable future? Here are the 10 most important things you need to know about Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO.
1. He's been with Microsoft a long time
Nadella is as insider as Microsoft insiders get, which may disappoint pundits hoping for an outsider CEO capable of breathing fresh life into Microsoft's complex business.
The India-born Nadella is an electronics engineer who also holds a degree in business administration. He started his career at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft all the way back in 1992. Since then, he's held several executive-level roles, including management of Microsoft's Server and Tools division, which generated double-digit billions in revenue, and most recently the company's Cloud and Enterprise group. But not all of his work has focused solely on business: Nadella is credited with transforming Windows Live Search into Bing, which now provides the informational backbone to a wide range of Microsoft services.
2. He has his head in the cloud
Nadella's anointment fits right in with Microsoft's recent transition to a device and services company. Microsoft is rapidly shifting toward cloud-centric services like Office 365, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, and the Microsoft accounts that glue Windows 8's device-hopping chops together. Nadella's division was in charge of the technology powering it all, which brings us to the next point.
3. He admits computing is moving beyond the PC
"I believe over the next decade computing will become even more ubiquitous and intelligence will become ambient," Nadella wrote in his first email to Microsoft employees as the CEO of the company. "The coevolution of software and new hardware form factors will intermediate and digitize--many of the things we do and experience in business, life and our world. This will be made possible by an ever-growing network of connected devices, incredible computing capacity from the cloud, insights from big data, and intelligence from machine learning.
"This is a software-powered world."
4. But he remembers that software is delivered via hardware
At the end of the Microsoft-produced interview with Nadella below, he drives home that Microsoft is also now a player in the hardware business, despite the strong software-focused talk above. "The world going forward is more of a software-powered world, delivered in devices," he says. Those thousands of Nokia, Surface, and Xbox employees must be breathing a little easier.
5. He has a deep thirst for knowledge
"Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning," he wrote in the same email. "I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me."
And in case you were wondering, those online courses include neuroscience classes.
(5.5.) Test cricket
Test cricket matches last up to five days--yes, five days!--and are considered an extreme examination of a player's endurance and abilities (or so Wikipedia tells me). "I love it," Nadella says. "There's so many subplots in it, it's like reading a Russian novel."
6. Bill Gates will be his mentor
Along with the news of Nadella's appointment, Microsoft also announced that Bill Gates is stepping down from his long-term position of Chairman of the board to focus more directly on the company, and help Nadella shape Microsoft's technology and product direction. According to Re/code, Gates will work several full-time days per week at Microsoft, which he hasn't done in many years. Why? Probably because...
7. Nadella doesn't have prior CEO experience
Unlike the rest of the candidates that were rumored to be in the running for the CEO role--Stephen Elop, Alan Mullally, Tony Bates, etc.--Satya Nadella has never been in control of an entire company, though the divisions he oversaw at Microsoft generated far more revenue than most companies could ever dream of.
8. Don't rock the boat
Incoming CEOs usually wait a few months before shaking things up too hard, but don't look for Nadella to make major waves with the major organizational changes recently instituted by Steve Ballmer. Mary Jo Foley interviewed Nadella in December, and reported that he's completely on board with the sweeping "One Microsoft" revamp that divided Microsoft into new, task-focused divisions.
9. Rock the boat, baby
That's not to say Nadella's Microsoft will follow the stodgy status quo, however. In the aftermath of Ballmer's surprise retirement announcement, then-director and now-Microsoft Chairman John Thompson admitted that the board "didn't push Steve to step down, but we were pushing him damn hard to go faster."
Nadella seems to have taken that to heart. In his first email to Microsoft employees, Nadella wrote, "Our industry does not respect tradition--it only respects innovation." Indeed, he went on to say that, "The opportunity ahead will require us to reimagine a lot of what we have done in the past for a mobile and cloud-first world, and do new things."
Nadella further elaborated on the "move fast" sentiment in Microsoft's press release announcing his appointment: "The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly."
10. He doesn't use Twitter much
Aside from updating his status to "CEO of Microsoft" this morning, Nadella pretty much ignores Twitter: His small handful of tweets all occurred between February 2009 and July 2010. But, hey, they positively bleed enthusiasm! Bing it on indeed, Satya.