New CEO seems unlikely to win Microsoft’s test

by Steve Blum • , ,

Sometimes the best you can do is watch the stumps.

Instead of seeking fresh leadership, Microsoft’s board of directors has opted to double down on the status quo as the company struggles to regain relevance in a world that’s moved away from the personal computer and toward mobile devices and cloud services.

The choice of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO was an exercise least-worse decision making. His most recent assignment in his 22 year career at Microsoft was running cloud and enterprise services, where he produced mediocre results. By Microsoft’s current standards that’s high performance, beating its mobile hardware and operating system disasters and ranking marginally more innovative than its creaking Windows PC platform.

Bill Gates will join Nadella’s team as babysitter-in-chief, I’m sorry, technology advisor. It’s a recipe for inaction, at a time when Microsoft needs to make radical changes to its strategy and product lines in order to maintain its market weight. If Gates was truly engaged with the transformation of the company he founded, he could have come back as CEO much as Steve Jobs did at Apple. But he’s not that interested. So Gates will hover behind Nadella, who is a Microsoft careerist, the rapturous hosannas about his intellectual powers and agility notwithstanding.

Nadella, who counts cricket as one of his passions, has to bring clarity and direction to a rudderless corporation, a challenge best described by Rethink Wireless’ Caroline Gabriel

Microsoft’s mobile strategy often resembles cricket – a long game so obscure to outsiders that it is unclear whether there is a clever strategy at work, or the players are just slogging along, trying to stay in the game and secretly praying for rain to stop play.

Microsoft has a long chase in front of it, and Nadella has no wickets to spare.