Microsoft ended months of speculation when it confirmed that its former executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise group Satya Nadella will replace Steve Ballmer as chief executive officer on Tuesday.
For obvious reasons this revelation dominated the headlines, but in my mind it masked another equally important announcement. This was, of course, the news that company founder and all-round tech legend Bill Gates will be returning to actively help run Microsoft.
Microsoft confirmed this as a side note while announcing Nadella's new role, revealing that Gates will step down from his current role as chairman of Microsoft's board of directors to take on a new role as the firm's founder and technology advisor. While information about what specific function Gates' new role will fulfil, the company has promised it will see him devote more time to the company, "supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction".
For me this is a sign that Gates – probably along with many of the board of directors – doesn't trust Nadella to boost sales of the company's Surface and Windows Phone devices. This is especially true and debatably fair when you consider Nadella's prior experience.
Since joining Microsoft in 1992, Nadella's contributions to the company have mainly focused on cloud services, such as Office 365, Bing, Xbox Live, Skype, Dynamics and SkyDrive – now called OneDrive.
While he has had success here, it doesn't speak volumes about his ability to sell or create a consistent strategy for the Surface and Lumia hardware, which since launching have both struggled to woo buyers away from more established hardware vendors, such as Samsung and Apple.
Even phone heavyweight Nokia has struggled to get serious traction with Windows Phone: the company only managed to snare the 10 percent UK market share milestone for Windows Phone in October 2013, according to analyst house Kantar Worldpanel.
This all means Nadella's promise to "accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly" is probably more about the company's cloud and enterprise services portfolio than it is about hardware.
I am certainly not alone in this belief, nor am I alone in thinking it could actually be a positive. As noted by V3 reader Ian Moyse: "This [Nadella's appointment] shows a clear commitment and understanding that the cloud world will lead the IT sector in the coming decade and those doubting this should look at the cuts by hardware providers HP, Dell, Intel and EMC in recent months.
"Microsoft's competition are innovative agile cloud-based leaders and they have to be driven to think and act differently as their legacy Office-based revenues will not sustain their historical prominence moving forwards."
Here's hoping Moyse is right and Nadella begins leading Microsoft back to the core field it built its reputation on, which of course is software and enterprise services, leaving Gates to fix the ongoing headaches that are Windows Phone and Surface.
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