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Meet Microsoft's new, quieter CEO

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: On his first day leading the world's largest software maker, Mr Nadella, 46, exuded an understated calm during a webcast to customers and staff.


    Feb 06, 2014

    Meet Microsoft's new, quieter CEO


    RIGHT from the start, new Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella is showing that he will operate differently from predecessor Steve Ballmer.

    On his first day leading the world's largest software maker, Mr Nadella, a 22-year Microsoft veteran who was named CEO on Tuesday, exuded an understated calm during a less-than-20-minute webcast to customers and employees.

    Rather than the customary press conference, the 46-year-old used the event to introduce himself and take questions from Microsoft vice-president Susan Hauser.

    The first line in his memo to employees started with "today is a very humbling day for me". That contrasts with Mr Ballmer, who, for 14 years as CEO, was famous for his oversized personality.

    Mr Ballmer, 57, once jumped out of a cake at Microsoft's 25th anniversary party at Seattle's Safeco Field and ran through the crowd giving high fives as if he'd won the Super Bowl.

    In a memo to employees yesterday, Mr Ballmer said he was "pumped". Though jarring, the change in style will be one of the advantages of choosing Mr Nadella as Microsoft's third CEO, said Dr David Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School. Mr Ballmer's aggressive salesmanship during the boom days of the personal-computer industry exemplified how Microsoft became the world's most valuable company.

    Now the software maker needs a new approach as it plays catch-up in areas including tablets, smartphones and cloud services.

    "Mr Nadella's obviously a deep technologist, and he's going to bring that back to a Microsoft that hasn't had it in the CEO office for years," Dr Yoffie said.

    Mr Nadella's low-key manner is also a sign of a changing of the guard in technology, as larger-than-life founders and near- founders such as Mr Ballmer leave the scene. As part of yesterday's changes, Microsoft's first CEO and co-founder, Mr Bill Gates, also stepped aside as chairman and was replaced by lead independent director John Thompson.

    Microsoft isn't the only technology company that has hired a product-focused CEO in recent years. Yahoo recruited engineer Marissa Mayer from Google in 2012 to be CEO, while networking-equipment maker Juniper Networks recently appointed Mr Shaygan Kheradpir, who had built networks for Verizon Communications and others, as CEO.

    "This industry goes through cycles, and we're in a cycle where customers are looking for new products," Mr Kheradpir said in an interview yesterday. "It's not a sales or a marketing thing right now."