Earlier this week, Microsoft made the announcement that CEO Steve Ballmer was stepping down and would be replaced by longtime Microsoft executive Satya Nadella. My first reaction to the news was how small a blip it made in public awareness. Talk to any number of people on the street and probably very few even know that this change happened. Even on technology news sites the announcement received, at best, equal billing with other tech news of the day and, in some cases, was overshadowed by coverage of Facebook’s tenth anniversary.
I worked in the technology press when Bill Gates was replaced as CEO by Steve Ballmer, and back then we gave the news the full big story treatment. Covers, blaring headlines, lots of features and opinion columns. Even the regular press, including the morning network news shows, gave the change a lot of coverage. And now a change in Microsoft leadership can’t beat out the tenth anniversary of a social network.
But while the leadership change may not be getting the “big story” treatment, for many businesses and technology users it does have the potential to become a big deal in their everyday life. Because the rise of Nadella to CEO, along with the return of Bill Gates as a special advisor, should signal some significant changes at the tech giant.
And make no mistake, Microsoft is still most certainly a giant. Despite regular coverage of things like “What’s wrong with Microsoft?”, “How can Microsoft be fixed” and “Break up Microsoft”, the company is still massively profitable and its products, including the much maligned Windows operating system, are still pervasive, especially in enterprise computing.
So what does the new leadership change mean for Microsoft and its customers? Only time will tell, but there is a potential for some significant change.
First, while Ballmer was a salesman, Nadella is an engineer with a strong technology background, which is a good sign for technology coming first at the new Microsoft. And his leadership in Microsoft’s initiatives in cloud computing and his understanding of the importance of mobile will hopefully translate into a Microsoft that is more focused on growing in emerging areas as opposed to always doing what is perceived as what is best for Office and Windows. There is also hope that Nadella will reform some of the business practices and processes in place at Microsoft that are seen as hindering innovation and agility.
We may never return to the days where a new Microsoft announcement is headline news being covered by Diane Sawyer. But perhaps the new Microsoft under Nadella will be one that can continue to be influential and innovative in the new age of technology.