Microsoft's Safe Bet: Nadella Named CEO, Gates Appointed Tech Advisor

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Microsoft has officially tapped 22-year veteran Satya Nadella, 46, as its third-ever CEO, signaling that the company will favor staid continuity over the drastic overhaul that an outsider might bring to its beleaguered business model.

At the same time, Microsoft founder Bill Gates will transition from chairman to technology advisor -- a board position in which Microsoft says Gates will devote more time to the company, “supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.”

John Thompson, formerly the board’s lead independent director, has been named chairman. Microsoft’s former chief, Steve Ballmer, who announced his retirement last August, will leave the company today as Nadella’s appointment is effective immediately.

Nadella, a hardcore engineer who hails from India, is best known for “the company’s move to the cloud,” Mircrosoft said, overseeing its server and tools business.

Related: White House Brings On Microsoft Executive to Fix HealthCare.gov

“Going forward, it’s a mobile-first, cloud-first world,” Nadella said in an interview posted to Microsoft’s YouTube account this morning. “In other words, everything is becoming digital and software-driven. I think of the opportunities being unbounded.”

Nadella’s strengths within the corporate-facing aspects of Microsoft’s business are more akin to those of Gates, who was a programmer, than to Ballmer, whose background was in sales.

“I’m thrilled that Satya has asked me to step up,” Gates said in a video, “substantially increasing the time that I spend at the company. I’ll have over a third of my time available to meet with product groups.”

Related: GoDaddy Teams Up With Microsoft to Offer Small Businesses Office 365

While Nadella’s appointment was widely expected, his challenges will be numerous. Microsoft’s lagging efforts in the ever-crucial mobile and tablet market have thus far been clobbered by competitors like Google and Apple.

“More than 90 percent of PCs run Windows, but only four percent of smartphones do and an even smaller slice of tablets,” reports Reuters.

The company clearly has its eyes set on mobile growth, as one of Ballmer’s final acts as CEO was the acquisition of Nokia for an estimated $7.2 billion.

Check out Nadella’s first interview as Microsoft CEO here:

Related: Microsoft Axes Its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Employee-Ranking System

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