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Microsoft names Satya Nadella its CEO; Bill Gates out as chairman

InfrastructureSatya Nadella

Confirming wide-spread media reports last week, Microsoft Corp. confirmed Tuesday that Satya Nadella is the tech giant’s new CEO. Co-founder Bill Gates is also giving up his position as chairman to independent director and former Symantec CEO John Thompson.

Nadella is just the third CEO in the software giant’s history, following Gates and Steve Ballmer. A native of India, Nadella worked at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft in 1992. He has led a number of businesses within Microsoft, including the servers and tools division and, most recently, as head of the company’s enterprise and cloud business, has been at the forefront of the company’s culture shift from a software business to one focused on devices and services.

“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Gates, in a statement. “Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”

Nadella has been seen as a stay the course choice by many observers, and in a public letter to Microsoft employees released Tuesday, Nadella didn’t deviate from the devices+services strategy the vendor has recently charted.

“We are the only ones who can harness the power of software and deliver it through devices and services that truly empower every individual and every organization,” said Nadella. “We are the only company with history and continued focus in building platforms and ecosystems that create broad opportunity.”

Before Nadella was named to the position, Forrester analyst James Staten said he’d be a good choice for the top job.

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“Satya Nadella is a tough, number-driven leader. If he is chosen, it will be a great thing for the overall direction of the company,” Staten said. “He is a visionary, has passion for change, is making it happen and knows what it takes to drive change in the unique Microsoft culture. An outsider would have a hard time accomplishing this coming in fresh. And time is of the essence.”

Several high-profile external candidates had been touted for the CEO’s role, including Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, but many either dropped or were dropped from consideration. Nadella emerged as the favourite from a pack of internal candidates that also included COO Kevin Turner and other senior Microsoft executives.

— With files from Howard Solomon