A few nights ago I had the strangest dream. Microsoft had finally decided to go all out and make Dynamics its flagship product – the horse that pulls the cart, the engine that drives the train – instead of the other way around. And so in my dream – I swear this is true – Steve Ballmer took over as head of Dynamics. The rest of the dream is almost immaterial, and, I awoke thinking that the vacation I was planning couldn’t come soon enough.
So imagine my surprise later that day when Microsoft announced that Satya Nadella, after a matter of months as the head of Dynamics, was moving over to the Search and Ad Platform Group, which, as the name implies, is clearly slated for a name change any time soon. I think the "Get Google Group" would be a better choice, but, hey, maybe they mean to turn Search and Ad Platform into an acronym – SAP, in case you hadn’t noticed. That oughta get someone’s mojo working overtime.
But I digress. I don’t suppose my dream will come true, but the ground is now set for a succession search that, quite frankly, will have trouble turning up a better candidate than Ballmer. Not only is he the ultimate insider, and of course one heckuva smart guy, but he is also someone who could really make Dynamics a household name. I was there in the 1980s when Ballmer helped steer this fledgling little software company called, of all things, Microsoft, into the household, and boardroom, name that it is today. He can do it again, I’m convinced, and Larry Ellison wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop him.Of course, that won’t happen, mostly because Microsoft doesn’t want to win in enterprise applications that badly, or that quickly. Instead, the company is pushing for incremental growth, while hammering away at its best natural ally, SAP, to the delight of the aforementioned Larry Ellison. Aforementioned’s bad dream, the one that would really ruin his day, is a détente between Microsoft and SAP that would allow his two biggest rivals to focus on putting Oracle out of business. .NETWeaver would be just the beginning of what the two companies could do together. Of course, that won’t happen either.
What will probably happen, getting back to the Nadella succession question, is that Tami Reller, corporate vice president and all around good person, will take over. Of course she’s no Ballmer, but there’s only one SteveB anyway. What Tami will be able to do is make sure that Dynamics’ momentum doesn’t get lost in the transition. The customers love her, the partners love her, her staff seems pretty fond of her too. And she’ll be able to keep the synergy flowing with the rest of Microsoft, a synergy that has finally begun to make a huge difference in the market, something an outsider will have trouble doing.
As for dreaming about Steve Ballmer, I promise I’ll take a vacation soon. It’s clearly time.