SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp.’s board has chosen longtime company executive Satya Nadella to guide the company into the future after the once-dominant software giant faltered in recent years amid the rise of mobile computing and as competitors Google, Amazon.com and Apple increasingly threaten its relevance.
Nadella will assume the role of chief executive officer and join Microsoft’s board immediately.
The company also announced that Bill Gates, formerly board chairman, will assume the title of founder and technology adviser, which Microsoft said will allow him to devote more time to the company and to support Nadella in shaping technology and product direction. Gates remains a board member.
John Thompson, lead independent director, will become board chairman.
Nadella becomes only the third CEO in Microsoft’s 39-year history, following in the footsteps of co-founder Gates and current CEO Steve Ballmer, who announced in August that he would be retiring within a year.
“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” Gates said in a news release. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”
Nadella called Microsoft “one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionized the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the company.”
“The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform,” he said in the news release. “A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”
In an email to employees, Nadella said: “We are hungry to do more. Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. … Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.”
As CEO, Nadella will lead a global behemoth that last fiscal year brought in $78 billion in revenue and $22 billion in profit. It has more than 100,000 employees worldwide. Another 32,000 Nokia employees are expected to join the payroll once that acquisition closes.
Nadella, 46, is a 22-year Microsoft veteran and currently heads its Cloud and Enterprise group, which provides servers, cloud platforms and other technology tools for corporations.
As such, he heads one of the company’s fastest-growing, most profitable divisions and has been a key player in helping shape, articulate and execute Microsoft’s strategy for the cloud, the term used to refer to services and data that live on remote servers and which users access online.
Last fiscal year, his division pulled in $20.3 billion in revenue and $8.2 billion in operating income.
Described as very smart, personable, charismatic and collaborative, he is well respected within the company and well regarded by Wall Street.
Some investors, though, who would like to see more radical changes at Microsoft, question whether an insider such as Nadella will bring about big changes.