What Satya Nadella must do right away as Microsoft's new CEO

What Satya Nadella must do right away as Microsoft's new CEO

Summary: Microsoft's new CEO faces some big challenges. Thank goodness an army of tech pundits are there to tell him exactly what he needs to do. Here's a roundup of advice for Nadella, from a worldwide collection of voices.

TOPICS: Microsoft

Every columnist and editor has a checklist of story types, templates that get dropped into current events to fill pages.

What Satya Nadella must do

Microsoft’s announcement last week that it was naming Satya Nadella as only the third CEO in the company’s history brought out one of the most consistent of those evergreen story types, the “XX Things The New Company/CEO Must Do Right Now” piece.

Of course, I had my own entry in the category last week:

Six challenges for Microsoft as the Satya Nadella era begins

Right up front, I want to make it clear that I'm not so much smarter than Nadella that I can tell him how to do his job:

I’m not going to pretend that I have enough insight or experience to tell Satya Nadella how to run Microsoft. (And I’m always amused by my colleagues when the “18 Things Satya Nadella Must Do Now to Save Microsoft” phase begins.)

But I do think I have a pretty good handle on the challenges he’s facing right now. And my guess is that these items are all high on Nadella’s to-do list.

In fact, I'm not sure that many of those challenges have a single right answer. Any CEO can make the right strategic decision and then botch its execution, or make a questionable decision and accidentally succeed when the competition stumbles. 

But that uncertainty hasn't stopped some analysts and editors from wading into the fray.

I’ve been collecting examples over the past week. If you’ve missed the flurry of advice that tech pundits have been offering to the new CEO, here’s your chance to catch up.

Satya Nadella must force Microsoft into the post-PC world

In the Financial Times, West Coast Managing Editor Richard Waters plays a game of Pundit Ping-Pong, laying out a fairly black-and-white vision of Nadella’s options:

For all the plaudits given this week to his deep technical nous, there is no easy solution to the dilemma the new Microsoft boss faces. With minor adjustments, the company can continue for years on its current course. That is exactly what part of Wall Street, with a penchant for cash flows it can map out in the medium term, is calling for as it urges him to narrow the company’s focus to business and government customers.

But – like IBM, which is facing a growth crisis after years of squeezing cash out of existing businesses – to follow that course would risk eventually hitting a wall.

That’s followed by a similarly dualistic analysis of cloud and mobile options, leading up to this:

Retreat is not an option. Consumer markets have become the touchstones for innovation in the technology world, the places where the new ideas and behaviours are being formed. To abandon them would be to leave the company’s most profitable flank exposed to rivals using their ties with personal users to break into the enterprise market.

So, keep doing everything. Good luck with that.

Satya Nadella must restore world’s faith in Microsoft

AFP (in Japan Times) offers a big bold opener:

Satya Nadella must renew the world’s faith in Microsoft and then deliver on his promises if the aging technology giant is to flourish anew.

From there, the advice homogenizes into a series of platitudes and quotes from analysts, starting with Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group that Nadella “has got to repair Microsoft’s image. People have to see the company as an up-and-comer and not as a legacy firm that is past its prime.”

I’m thinking basic Jedi Master powers might come in handy to pull that one off.

What Satya Nadella must do to fix Microsoft

Margaret Heffernan of CBS MoneyWatch argues that Microsoft needs to “rebuild credibility.” To do that, “it needs to be more considered and concerted in everything it does.”

As an aside, being considered and concerted seems like a checklist item on the job description for the CEO of a Fortune 50 corporation. But I digress.

The “Here’s what the company needs” list is scattershot, to put it kindly, with a bulleted list of broad, touchy-feely suggestions like building “a coherent culture” and delivering “software and hardware that interoperates seamlessly.”

Finally, this conclusion comes down firmly on the side of “I have no idea”:

The big question, of course, remains whether Microsoft will slim down, exit some businesses or break itself into smaller units. There are no obvious answers here; everything depends on the logic behind decisions.

In most companies, reorganizations and re-engineering typically cost a full year in lost innovation and productivity. Nadella will want to avoid that – unless he believes the status quo is more costly still.

There’s not much to take away there, really.

Satya Nadella Must Save Windows 8

At the Motley Fool, stock-market enthusiasts are treated to this broadside from MSFT shareholder Daniel Kline. He compares Windows 8 adoption rates to the identical period for Windows 7, using NetMarketShare statistics, complete with a chart, and then goes through a lengthy on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand-on-the-other-other-hand recitation of how the PC market is slowing as the tablet and smartphone markets explode.

And then, finally, we get to the “What Satya Nadella must do” part:

Still, with PC sales dismal but stabilizing, Nadella has the money and time to attempt to convince his customer base – still 90.7% of the PC market – to stay in the family. If he can do that, while building mobile share with Surface and putting Windows 8 phones back on a growth path, the new CEO cand be perceived as a success whereas the same results from Ballmer would likely have been perceived as a failure.

That’s it. No details on exactly how to accomplish that Herculean task of convincing Microsoft customers to stay in the family. Just “Satya, figure it out.”

On page 2: Be more like Google, including switching to Android?


Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • MSFT is in no danger

    as long as it doesn't annoy enterprise customers too much.

    Now, if MSFT is serious about WinRT, it does need to address the paucity of MAJOR apps in the Windows Store. Not single purpose apps which would be right at home on a 3" phone screen. Rather programs which need larger screens and provide complex features. That is, IF WinRT is suitable for such programs.

    If WinRT is really only meant for phone-like apps, MSFT better attend to the desktop.
    • The way to fix the app problem is a unified app platform

      Windows/RT/Phone/XBOX. Write it once, publish it to one store. They should have been there by now. Myerson if anyone should be able to get them there by threshold. If they aren't there by threshold they should look at replacing Myerson.

      As far as Peter Cohan goes is he unaware of the giant google offices in seattle? Or the big one in Kirkland 10 minutes from MS campus? You know, the one where their building a second new huge building? Does he know where amazons dev headquarters are? That they compete on both mobile and cloud? Or the thousands of other startups that MS employees found or join that then get bought by MS conpetitors? It's numbskull statements like that that destroy analyst credibility.
      Johnny Vegas
      • where's Modern Visual Studio?

        Or Modern Office? And who'd want to run Modern Office on an Xbox (though using the GPU as a coprocessor for Excel would be interesting).
        • You are nuts

          Modern (a.k.a. Metro) Visual studio would be as useful as visual studio on iPod.
          • ...

            Agreed, but it should be the first question asked to anyone proclaiming the wonderfulness of the Windows Store, the WinRT API, and the One Windows Experience. If WS/WinRT/OWE (gotta love that last set of initials) is the future for everything, then it's the future for Visual Studio, and that leads people to question the value of that future.
    • Agree, people don't want to leave M$

      If M$ will just start listening to their customer base and give what people are asking for (Win 8 isn't it) they'll survive very nicely. Trying to make an industry changing product isn't what they need, consider Win8 they tried to make something new and revolutionary, the result was a dog OS few people could stand.
      • My guess is

        You are one of the "few people". Try coming up with something better than rumor and rehashing someone else's minority opinion. Win8 is not as unpopular and as bad as you and a minority of others on here area always spouting out over.
        • Every company has some dogs

          Win8 is one of M$' dogs, face it. Acceptance in the market place just didn't happen, sales were low then completely flattened out.

          If it wasn't unpopular then why were Sinofsky and Ballmer fired for it?
          • Didn't know Balmer was fired.

            How did I miss that?
      • Same old, same old

        People who talk about "M$" - yawn. Windows 8 is a dog - yawn. What else? Bring back the Start Menu? Destroy the Office Ribbon? Real men don't use mice/touch/tiles/new ideas? Have you actually USED Windows 8.1? Transfer Win7 skills to Win needs 5 minutes training or a very, very slim "Dummies" book. Oh, why do I bother? Windows 8 deniers just feed off each other like evolution deniers, global warming deniers etc. etc.
        Bob G Beechey
      • Windows 8 will go down in history as the biggest fail from MS

        I lol at those still trying to defend W8. It's a fail. Everyone I talk to hates it! Windows 7 did better at launch, is doing better and is better than Windows 8. Continue to push and pull and try to convince others that W8 is better, I don't think the majority will believe the story that W8 is any good. Sure there are some redeeming features, but it's not worth giving up W7 over. Install a 3rd party start menu? Deal with the annoying start screen? No thanks I'd rather install Windows 3.1, ME and Vista than use W8. In fact some prefer continuing using XP.

        Windows 8 deserves every bit of hate it gets because people won't upgrade to it! It's 2014 and it has measly 10-15% compared to XP and W7. Label W8 however people wish but I laugh at those in denial into thinking that W8 is 'successful' or 'great'. Windows 8 is the most hated OS of all time and it's as bad as people say it is.
        • It's only half-evolved

          I'm open to the idea of improvements to UX (user experience, interface design). Ribbon was a good idea that simply took getting used to. I can't say that the current metro interface is the same in its current form. I use different user interface designs all the time in linux, and Win7 at work (which is the best windows yet). I hate W8, Tiles don't work as great for the mouse because they increase the amount of mouse travel needed (mouse travel is a very important UX consideration), the full screen apps (particularly the web browser) are far too slimmed down, and edge-drag doesnt work as well for the mouse as it does for touch (an example of good swipe-from-edge UX is Blackberry 9 OS). It also makes certain workflows harder by making the user do more mouse travel and more clicks to do something like configure a printer. To me, Win8 is one of Microsoft's transitional OSes, like Vista and ME were. ME tried to put lipstick on the pig that was Win98 but made it more unstable. Vista brought desktop compositing but failed to capitalize on it the way that Win7 did. And Win8 is designed to be a way to unify the experience of different form factors (tablet, smartphone, desktop, etc), but is still too rough to be elegant at it. Some people will like it as some people liked Vista, but to me it's still in an ugly half-evolved stage.
    • WinRT

      is growing and is supposed to be a replacement for .Net, Win32 and a bunch of other "legacy" technologies.

      Microsoft seem to be betting the farm on WinRT at the moment, with it being the core for Windows x86/x64, Windows RT and Windows Phone development. As with any new technology, it starts off rather restricted and adds features, until it is mature.

      We have seen how WinRT is growing, with the continuing unification of the components and APIs between Windows, Windows RT and Windows Phone. If MS can really merge Windows RT and Windows Phone, there is less chance for diversification of the WinRT APIs and it will be easier to concentrate on expanding WinRT to its full potential as the way forward, away from Win32 and other legacy cruft and be more cross platform.

      Just look at how WinRT apps are expanding in their capabilities between Windows 8 and 8.1 on Intel, the interface to WinRT apps started off full screen or 2/3, 1/3 split in 8.0. With 8.1 MS made that more flexible and the user could chose the split themselves. With 8.1 Update 1, WinRT applications can be docked on the taskbar and are getting basic window contros. With Windows 9 Threshold, it looks like those WinRT applications will be available in windows on the desktop, if the leaks are to be believed.

      Obviously, on Windows RT and Windows Phone devices the app in a desktop window isn't as important, due to the limited screen size, but WinRT on larger screens certainly seems to be growing in features.
      • Replacement?

        WinRT is a replacement for Win32, not necessarily a replacement for .Net. WinRT is a set of OO APIs that are intended to replace calling the classic Win32/64 DLL-based APIs.
    • Microsoft is 100% in danger

      Microsoft worked hard for decades to become subject of hatred. The corporate inertia looks like the last hope, but as everyone becomes a computer user early and the BYOD is spreading, this inertia may disappear in a couple of months.
  • Abolishing Windows Phone OS would be pointless

    For not just the reasons Ed cites (another Silverlight), but also because Microsoft has supplanted BlackBerry as number three. We've seen for a while now that the mobile industry is able to sustain three ecosystems - no less, and no more.

    Why cede one of those spots, just to become an Android also ran? It wouldn't make any sense.
    • That's conventional wisdom in just about any industry

      But whether the mobile OS business remains an oligopoly depends a lot on whether people buy the assumption that it must be that way. The smaller developers *should* try to make their business models work, even if the prospects of breaking into the big three don't seem realistic.

      In the end, making money is a lot more important than market share. Corporate executives, IMHO, worry too much about the latter.
      John L. Ries
      • And even if oligopoly is the expected market configuration...

        ...the market still needs the smaller players to keep the big boys from getting too comfortable, and to make sure more specialized wants and needs are met.
        John L. Ries

      Not only have they wasted billions on Windows Phone 7x and 8, they wasted tens of billions on Skype, Bing, and XBOX.

      The US Treasury is the only institution that "burns" more money than Microsoft!
    • Mcrsft_Fence_Shitter is wrong again ...

      There no "top three" law, and the industry is too young to know how it will settle down.

      Conceivably, Microsoft could become the dominant Android company - much more chance than continuing with their own, obsolete OS.

      But they'd need to re-brief the shills, I guess ...