Reading between the software lines of Nadella's first CEO speech

Reading between the software lines of Nadella's first CEO speech

Summary: Microsoft's newly minted CEO Satya Nadella talked up Microsoft's role as a software maker, as much as a devices and services one, in his first public speech.


As someone who has sat through more than a few presentations by Microsoft's newly-minted CEO Satya Nadella (before he was CEO), I know a couple of things about his talks.


I've heard Nadella talk about everything from Bing and big data, to the CloudOS. Nadella's remarks are typically high-level and usually include lots of the latest tech-industry buzzwords. But he also usually has a very specific message in mind when he comments.

Nadella made his first "public" speech as CEO on February 4, his first day on the job. He spoke to a select audience of partners and customers on the Microsoft campus and his remarks were webcast.

There were no blockbuster revelations from Nadella, nor did I expect there'd be. But what stood out to me was Nadella's insistence on reminding Microsoft's constituencies that Microsoft may be repositioning itself as a devices and services company, but it's still -- first and foremost -- a software company.

"Software will define devices," Nadella told the studio audience and those of us watching at home. Later, he noted "software empowers everyone." And he mentioned the "software embodied in our devices and services," when talking about the evolving ecosystem in which Microsoft is playing these days.

I don't think any of these mentions were accidental. I think they are part of Microsoft's campaign to focus on what it brings to the tech party that other players don't. Yes, there are other device makers out there. And yes there are other services companies out there. But many of those in either category are vendors that do little unique software development themselves.

Microsoft needs to highlight the assets that it has that are "not replicable by others," Nadella noted. I'd think that means, for one, Office, which Microsoft is in the midst of making over to work better on touch devices (its own and others).

I wouldn't go so far as to say Microsoft is doing a 180 and attempting to go back to identifying itself as a software maker. But I think it's a good sign the new CEO isn't afraid to acknowledge publicly what Microsoft's last quarter numbers made plain: Microsoft is a software vendor, and an enterprise software powerhouse, in particular.

As a related aside, for those wondering, Microsoft is not making public today the name of the individual who is going to take Nadella's place as the new Executive Vice President in charge of Cloud & Enterprise. There's no word on when Microsoft will share the name of that person.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Cloud, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • "...and an enterprise software powerhouse, in particular."

    Adios, Metro!
    • Hallelujah!

      Can't wait for Metro to fall to the ground in flames. What a waste of time.
      • It's a tough call for Satya

        Up to the last minute, Ballmer was making massive decisions that were leading Microsoft up the wrong path. Eg the Nokia purchase. Satya's emphasis on software shows he knows this.

        Now, Satya will have to clean up the mess that Ballmer left behind. The fruits of Satya's efforts will be years before they are seen, and there will first have to be pain to tidy that mess. It's a tough position.

        And yes, the world hated Metro, in all its forms.
        • time will tell

          so you think they should erase metro and start over from scratch as goggle and apple both clock 1 million "metro" competitor apps? you have to be delusional freddy.
      • Not a waste of time.

        There is a huge future in mobile and Metro is one of better UIs for touch. It is more intuitive than android. It is more efficient than ios. The problem is that MS tried to force a touch UI on non touch systems.
        • Huh?

          " It is more intuitive than android. It is more efficient than ios.", According to who, you? Everyone I know, that has tried it, hates it. It doesn't work well on a Microsoft Lumia 1020, it doesn't work well on a Desktop, I can't honestly say much about the bone, but the surface is not a huge seller, so people (in general) don't like that either.
          I hate trolls also
          • "people (in general) don't like that either"

            Not necessarily. Most of the regular (i.e. non-techie) people I know know very little about the Surface and Windows tablets in general. So, they go with what they know: Android and iOS.

            That doesn't necessarily mean they don't like Metro. I, for the record, enjoy Metro on touch devices.
          • have you tried to use android on a desktop

            it doesn't work well at all. yet android is very good in touch screens. as OP said, the problem isn't metro, it is lack of touch. that was the real problem. their issue wasn't really trying to embrace touch, consumers decided that, their problem was slapping a touch UI in a touchless desktop device.
      • waste of time?

        it's their last chance to stay relevant in the post PC world. waste of time? indeed, it should have arrived 2007, not 2012
    • I wouldn't be so quick

      Why do you think Metro is going away?
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Doesn't the dismal adoption rate of Win8 into the enterprise say something?

        If enterprise is the money machine, don't you think Microsoft needs to listen?
        • Define Metro

          Metro is a user interface design language. Does enterprise really dislike tiles, simple shapes and minimalistic graphics?

          Or is enterprise ignoring Windows 8 because the interface is too dynamic, too touch centric? Who said Metro can't be toned down, or rather meet Desktop in the middle - to work for both touch and mouse users equally well? What if WinRT apps run in windows? What if Start Screen could be turned into Start Menu? What if WinRT apps had unified taskbar with desktop apps?

          All of that would give business (and regular consumers too) a smooth way to continue using legacy software they rely on every day but also experiment with WinRT and slowly move to support it when interested. Just put WinRT apps and legacy programs in one, modern computing space so that mouse users can feel familiar while still being able to utilize advantages of Windows 8 and its WinRT apps.
          • "Metro"

            Is afield phone/MP3 player UX, that Microsoft is trying to force on everyone. Let's be honest here: it failed on the Kin, Zune, WP7 phone devices. So rather than try something else the idiots at Microsoft decide tout it on everything. A desktop is not ideal for a phone, and a phone UX is not ideal for a desktop. Get it? Ballmer never did. Here's to hoping the New Guy does.
            I hate trolls also
          • force

            metro is a touch UI. they aren't forcing it any more than consumers are forced to buy tablets. they are simply facing reality: consumers hate desktop. they hate it so much they are fleeing to iOS and Android.
        • Enterprise is also...

          ... In the middle of deploying Windows 7. They're not going to spend the money to upgrade again so soon. That said, I know of a few businesses that are deploying Windows 8.1 pilot programs, the one I work for included.
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • Since when

          Has enterprise been quick to adopt the latest OS.
        • That's misunderstanding something important

          the adoption of the next version of Windows has always been tied to new computer sales. As people are able to keep their PCs now longer than ever, and PC sales are at a low point, the adoption rate would be lower.
          Michael Alan Goff
        • Userama, MS stopped listening to business ever since Vista

          A guy named 'bitcrazed', who comments here, made the most perceptive comment I've ever read, in a ZDnet article some months ago (I forget which one). He said that the problem with XP was that it put stuff inside the kernal which shouldn't have been inside, and that MS has been gradually trying to take that stuff outside, ever since. So this helps explain the security patches, the changes in the OS, under the hood. Fine and understandable. This resulted in many driver problems, as the subroutines under XP had to be rerouted. Instead of just creating reroutes, the Vista et seq changes require new from-scratch drivers. Not all manufacturers were willing to make them. Ergo the backlash against Vista until SP2, when finally all these changes were either rerouted, or manufacturer drivers were referenced.

          But in addition, MS made horrible changes to file management, search, and the desktop. Worse, they ruined email and other key daily services users needed. These same changes happened again under Windows 7, and then 8. So email working under XP had a workaround for Vista, which Windows 7 trashed, and then Win8 trashed the Windows 7 version. Really dumb.

          It's a double-whammy for business, when you completely revamp the interface so now your employees have to learn everything all over; plus, now their email won't work properly. That's like trying to do business with only one leg and one arm.

          MS should have foreseen this and gone out of its way to keep the interface and email, plus other essential daily employee procedures, the same. They didn't. So they are effectively thumbing their nose at business, from Vista onward.

          So I'm done with them. Completely, now. Was waiting to see who the new CEO would be, and now that I've heard him effectively say that Windows like MS Office, will move to the cloud (so your computer becomes a thin client, never more), I'm moving on to Linux or Mac, probably the former.

          MS has completely gone nuts.
          • ipad says you're wrong

            ipad is a complete revamp of all that was known about windows, yet that is all you see on the enterprise. so you're wrong. people adapted. people hate desktop.
        • enterprise is changing

          have you heard BYOD, and guess what enterprise is buying: touch touch touch. Guess what the enterprise is getting rid of: desktops desktop desktops.

          where is the money of the next decade: metro.