So far Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella, a 22-year company insider who took the helm from Steve Ballmer two months ago tomorrow, is a bigger, badder game-changer than expected, and a hell of a fast mover, too.
So much for claims that he’s a “sheep,” with “no real reform” up his sleeve.
The tech giant’s new leader, an elite electronics engineer who once headed up Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division, is quickly steamrolling ahead with his vision for a future where everything humans do will be digitized. And he’s making all the right moves to execute his sweeping, hopefully revenue-boosting makeover strategy, one that he said puts customers at the “new core for Microsoft” and its “innovation agenda.”
“Everything we do going forward is grounded in this worldview, which I describe as the world of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence,” Nadella said while unveiling the new Office for iPad a week ago today. "It's an amazing canvas for innovation and it's an amazing opportunity for growth for our company.”
Growth is an understatement, considering how deeply Nadella’s already upended Microsoft. Here’s a quick rundown of the four ways he’s overhauled and improved Microsoft’s stale business model, all in just shy of 8 short weeks in his brand new role as CEO:
1. Giving Windows away to smartphone and tablet makers for free.
Gone are the days of smartphone and tablet hardware manufacturers having to pay between $5 and $15 per device to feature Microsoft Windows on their products. Not now that Windows 8.1, like Google’s Android, is 100-percent free to makers of mobile devices.
There’s one caveat, though – it’s free to manufacturers who make devices with screens that are nine inches or smaller. Microsoft announced the huge surprise move yesterday at its Build 2014 conference in San Francisco.
Windows mobile trumps Android, though, because handset and tablet makers reportedly won’t have to fork over licensing fee money to Microsoft to feature the operating system. The big idea is to lure more mobile Windows users to sign up and pay for Microsoft’s Skype and Office cloud products.
2. Introducing Cortana, Microsoft’s killer answer to Apple’s Siri.
Yesterday the world said hello to Cortana, the svelte new voice of the new and improved Windows 8.1. Both were also unveiled during Microsoft’s epic, three-hour keynote at Build 2104.
Halo fans are already gushing over Cortana for Windows, which is voiced in large part (along with synthesized voices) by the popular American voiceover actress Jen Taylor. She provides the same sultry voice behind the character Cortana in the hit Microsoft Xbox Halo game series. You might also recognize her as the voice of Toad, Toadette and Princess Peach in a bunch of Mario games.
The cool addition of Cortana signals game-on in Microsoft’s bid to snag fans of Siri and Google Now in the battle for sickest mobile voice assistant. We think Cortana wins for cool factor alone, even if she’s still in beta for a while.
3. Finally bringing Office to the iPad.
Also thanks to Nadella, the long, frustrating iPad Office drought is over at last. On March 27 Microsoft announced that all three of the programs in its flagship Office suite -- Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- are now available for iPad.
While the apps are free to download, you can’t create or edit existing Office documents if you don’t pay for an Office 365 subscription; you can only read and present documents. Well played, Nadella. Cha-ching goes Microsoft’s bottom line.
4. Dumping two top execs and promoting two.
Nadella’s in a hurry to trim and reshape Microsoft’s executive team. One of the first major moves he made after taking the lead was to initiate the departure of chief marketing officer Tami Reller and the head of Microsoft’s business development group former Skype CEO Tony Bates.
In a March 3 company-wide email confirming rumors that both high-profile executives are indeed leaving Nadella said, “I have talked about the premium we need to place on getting very, very focused on things that we can uniquely do. How we articulate our value, how we market our message, how we deliver that value to customers through our advertising and other channels, all have to tie into an overarching strategy.”
He also stated in the email that Eric Rudder, Microsoft’s executive vice president of advanced strategy, would step into Bates’ position “while continuing his current role.” Meanwhile, Microsoft veteran Chris Capossela will take on the role of executive vice president and chief marketing officer as the “single leader running marketing for the company.”
Also as part of the new chief executive’s shakeup of Microsoft’s marketing structure, veteran political and PR heavyweight Mark Penn -- a controversial former aide to President Bill Clinton, and to Hillary Clinton during her failed 2008 Democratic presidential nomination bid -- is segueing into a new leadership role as Nadella’s chief strategy officer. According to Nadella, Penn, who has been a Microsoft employee for less than two years, will report directly to him regarding new product ideas and strategic investment opportunities.