Here we have a picture of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivering a keynote address about ChatGPT integration for Bing. Riveting stuff, folks.
Credit: Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images
In February 2014, Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as the CEO of Microsoft. At that time, let’s just say Microsoft was wallowing in mediocrity with its market cap barely crossing $300 billion. Fast forward to today and voila! A decade later, Microsoft is now worth an eye-popping $3.06 trillion!
Surely this isn’t your grandpa’s tech company anymore; it has surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable public company and is leading the pack in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
Nadella deserves plenty of credit for turning things around at Microsoft – under his predecessor Ballmer’s leadership (if you can call it that), the stock fell by 30% over 14 years. But wait there’s more! During Ballmer’s reign, Google outpaced them in web search and mobile while they were nowhere to be found on social media – talk about missing out on the party!
Despite these challenges, Nadella has managed to steer Microsoft back on track and set it up for a bright future. Aravind Srinivas, CEO of AI startup Perplexity, even hailed him as one of the greatest tech CEOs of all time – or in internet lingo, one of the GOATs.
However, being at top isn’t without its own problems: regulators are wary about Microsoft’s power; competitors are green with envy; some clients might be hesitant to spend more money on their AI tools when they already have a plethora of Microsoft products in their portfolio. And let’s not forget those pesky layoffs – 10,000 jobs were cut early 2023 and another 1,900 from its gaming division just this January.
One major issue that plagues Nadella is changing the perception that Microsoft was once known for having closed-off proprietary software like Windows and Office while denouncing open-source alternatives. Aaron Levie (co-founder & CEO) of cloud storage company Box called it a “take-it-or-leave-it culture”. However under Nadella’s leadership there has been significant change towards being more customer-centric.
Nadella: The Unlikely Peacemaker
Larry Ellison (Oracle Corp.’s co-founder) giving an impassioned speech during Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco
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Nadella also showed his diplomatic skills by forming alliances with some of Microsoft’s toughest competitors. In 2023, Oracle’s co-founder Larry Ellison visited Microsoft’s headquarters for the first time and both companies announced a joint cloud partnership. Nadella even managed to get VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger (now running Intel) to offer his company’s software on Microsoft Azure – an event he likened to signing a “Middle East peace treaty”.
Under Nadella, not only has Microsoft made significant contributions towards open-source projects but it also released its Teams communication app for Linux! Talk about turning over a new leaf.
Nadella: The People Person
Nadella is known for his surprising reactions as well. Michael Nathan, former senior director at Microsoft shared how when he told Nadella about leaving the company in favor of venture capital, instead of getting upset or making things awkward – Satya urged him to share what he had learned at Microsoft with others.
Besides being people-friendly, Nadella is also quite decisive – He reportedly approved the idea of buying GitHub just 20 minutes into hearing Nat Friedman pitch him on it and then suggested that Friedman become GitHub’s new CEO right away!
Comparing Apples & Oranges: Ballmer vs. Nadellla
Steve Ballmer (former CEO of MS Corp.) gesticulates wildly during press conference after becoming owner of NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers
Credit: Kevork Djansezian | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Let’s be clear, Nadella is no Ballmer. While Ballmer was known for his over-the-top theatrics and hype-man persona (now seen courtside at NBA games as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers), Nadella has been a more effective dealmaker. He’s made high-profile acquisitions like LinkedIn, Minecraft parent Mojang, GitHub and Nuance Communications that have contributed to Microsoft’s top line.
Nadella: The Future
Looking ahead, there are several challenges on the horizon for Nadella – ensuring relevance with younger generations who may not have grown up using Microsoft software; retaining talent in an industry notorious for job-hopping; building products that can compete with established players from day one and dealing with regulatory scrutiny around its investments in AI startups.
Satya Nadella’s first decade as Microsoft CEO was defined by cloud. What’s next?