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Tech Industry Gives Microsoft's Nadella Good Reviews

A "safe choice," with big challenges ahead.


Tech execs across the industry all had nice things to say about Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella, named today to replace outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer.

The reactions were predictably positive and cordial, owing largely to the influence that Microsoft still packs as the world’s largest software company, but also to the challenges Nadella will face as he recalibrates the company’s strategy around mobile devices and cloud computing, areas where it has lagged behind rivals.

Peter Hortensius, chief technology officer at Lenovo, the world’s largest supplier of personal computers and as such one of Microsoft’s biggest customers, was among those offering effusive praise. “We have a long-standing, deep relationship with Microsoft, and are grateful to Steve for his partnership over the years,” Hortensius said in a statement. “At the same time, we have tremendous confidence in Satya’s expertise, experience and leadership. Lenovo looks forward to many more productive, innovative and exciting years working with Microsoft to deliver outstanding products to our customers.”

Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, another of Microsoft’s biggest customers, was described by a spokesman as happy about Satya’s appointment. HP did not issue a formal statement.

Michael Dell, CEO of HP rival Dell, issued a statement through a spokesman saying he was “pleased” by the appointment: “We know Satya well. His strong combination of engineering innovation and business acumen make him an outstanding choice to lead Microsoft into the future, and we look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers offered Nadella his “personal congratulations” in a company blog post. “I know him well and I know he will do a great job for Microsoft as he is a seasoned, world-class technology leader. I trust him and I know he instills trust in his customers and partners. I look forward to continuing to work with him and Microsoft to better serve our customers together,” Chambers wrote.

Analysts generally seemed to like the choice too, but also pointed out the challenges he has ahead. “Nadella is a good choice for the enterprise,” said Patrick Moorhead, head of the Austin-based research firm Moor Insights & Strategy. “He has never been a CEO and has less experience than someone running an operation that large and complex. Nadella has a few years of consumer experience via the Bing search engine, but he will need a strong second-in-command. Microsoft’s sore spots are consumer and shortly could become cloud as web giants are not choosing its cloud service Azure.”

Matthew Casey, an analyst with the research firm TBR, called Nadella a “safe, logical choice” and said Nadella has solid technical and leadership qualities for the job. “The safe bet by Microsoft reflects the company’s stable position within its core markets, but long-term focus on transitioning better address disruptive trends such as cloud and mobility,” Casey said.

Microsoft, he said, is making big changes on three fronts. “It is shifting from a product organization to a functional organization, a software company to a devices and services company, and from a tools provider to an outcomes provider. All three transitions are challenges to a culture dominated by software engineering and software engineers. Nadella, with undeniable technical credentials as well as a track record of organizational and business success, is well suited to enlist Microsoft personnel in steering the company in a new direction.”

Hints about that new direction were apparent well before Nadella was known to be in the running for the job. Sunil Kumar is the dean at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where Nadella got his MBA. Kumar described Nadella as a “very engaged alum” of the school who visits frequently and likes to talk with students about their projects.

Kumar remembers some remarks that Nadella made in a talk to students last November. “He understands Microsoft, and to change and reinvent something you have to first understand it,” Kumar said. “He is a dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft guy, but at the same time he talked about how mobile and the cloud represent the future of the company. This was before he was being mentioned as a candidate for CEO, and he already had articulated a vision for how these two things represent the way forward for Microsoft.”

Positive comments also came from the ranks of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, including Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz and Brad Silverberg of Ignition Partners.

Steven Sinofsky, a Microsoft veteran and former head of its Windows business unit who left the company in 2012 and last year joined Andreessen Horowitz, also weighed in on Twitter.

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