Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Third Man

Microsoft named Satya Nadella as the successor to Steve Ballmer. Nadella is only the third CEO Microsoft has ever had. Most of the responses so far have been cautiously optimistic — in fact, I’m sure you’ve read most of the responses so far. I was busy with many exciting things, though, so I’m just catching up.

Cade Metz of Wired explains why Microsoft picked right:

Microsoft would continue to drive much of its business through traditional software, Nadella explained, including the server operating systems and databases and virtualization software offered by his Server and Tools group, but the company also realized that the world was moving towards online services like Azure and Office 365, services that businesses could use in lieu of buying traditional software. Because Microsoft offered both services and software, the company was in “a good, unique place,” said Nadella, a thin, extremely fit man who typically wears dark-rimmed glasses and keeps his head close to clean shaven.

Today, Microsoft still trails Amazon in the cloud computing market — very much so — but under Nadella, the Server and Tools group has significantly changed the way it operates, and in doing so, it has expanded the influence of Azure and other modern services. According to Bill Hilf, Nadella was instrumental not only in shifting Microsoft towards the new, more rapid way of building online services, but in moving the group to a new licensing model that encouraged the sales staff to sell online services as well as traditional software.

John Gruber is of a similar opinion. If you read this site, I’m sure you read Gruber’s too, and have already read this piece. However, I wanted to highlight this one thing:

Successful companies tend to be true to themselves. The old Microsoft’s Windows and Office everywhere, on every device strategy was insanely ambitious, but also true to their culture. Apple has grown to eclipse Microsoft in financial size, but never set its sights on Microsoft-ian market share size. Google is unfocused at the edges, but it’s never tried to act like any company other than Google. Google makes operating systems and office applications, but in a decidedly Google-y way. The last thing Microsoft should do is attempt to be like Apple or Google.

This is a brilliant point. By picking someone from inside the company, Microsoft has affirmed their comfort with their own organization. If they had picked, for instance, Nokia’s Stephen Elop to run the joint, it would be an indication that they feel the need to reform the company to be more like another. Microsoft doesn’t — and probably shouldn’t — have the internal culture of any company other than Microsoft.