February 04, 2014, 6:09 PM — Meet the new guy: He sounds just like the old guy.
In his first public comments as Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella spoke in a way that very closely resembled his predecessor, Steve Ballmer. Whether that's a good first sign or a bad one depends, of course, on whether one believes that Microsoft is generally on the right track or that it needs instead to be shaken up.
Answering questions from Susan Hauser, corporate vice president of the worldwide enterprise partner group, Nadella reiterated in the webcast what Ballmer has identified as the company's challenges and its strategy to overcome them.
Though Nadella's stage demeanor appeared more urbane than that of Ballmer, whose manic exhortations at company meetings were notorious, the basic message was the same. In a nutshell: Microsoft is morphing its focus from providing packaged software to providing devices and cloud services, so it must innovate with a strategy that places mobile and cloud first.
As part of this strategy, Microsoft is focusing on meeting the needs of its end users both at home and at work, thus embracing the BYOD (bring your own device) trend. The common element at the center of the company's success remains software, which will determine the quality and uniqueness of those devices and services, he said.
The key for future success is for Microsoft to identify what technologies and products it has the resources and knowledge to create that no one else in the industry is able to replicate, Nadella said.
"That's the focus we'll bring to our execution," he said.
It's a message he also laid out in a letter he wrote to Microsoft employees today, in which he said: "As we look forward, we must zero in on what Microsoft can uniquely contribute to the world. 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. We are the only ones who can harness the power of software and deliver it through devices and services that truly empower every individual and every organization."
Hauser didn't ask any probing or uncomfortable questions, and a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email that the company has no plans to hold a press conference with Nadella today or tomorrow.
That Nadella is sticking so close to the Ballmer script should come as no surprise. If the board had wanted a new CEO that shook Microsoft's foundations, it wouldn't have chosen an insider who has been with the company 22 years.