New Microsoft chief: 'I love test cricket' + video

Incoming Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. Photo / Wikipedia Commons - Le Web Photos
Incoming Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. Photo / Wikipedia Commons - Le Web Photos

As a boy growing up in Hyderabad, India, Satya Nadella so loved the sport of cricket that he played competitively on his school team.

Now he is the top player on the team at Microsoft, the ageing US technology colossus where he has worked for nearly half of his 46 years of life.

"I think playing cricket taught me more about working in teams and leadership that has stayed with me throughout my career," the newly chosen Microsoft chief executive said in his online company biography.

Early in his academic career, a drive to build things led him to pursue computer science, a focus not available during his studies at Mangalore University, where he earned a bachelor degree in electrical engineering.

For a master's degree in computer science, he went to the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Nadella earned a second master's degree in business at the University of Chicago.

"The one thing I would say that defines me is that I love to learn," Nadella said in a video interview posted by Microsoft.

"I buy more books than I read, or finish; I sign up for more online courses than I actually finish."

In a sign of what may be to come for Microsoft stalwarts, Nadella spoke emphatically of his passion for learning and admiration for those who find creative new approaches or ideas.

Nadella says that for Microsoft to succeed, it needs to adapt to new trends.

"While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more," he said in an email to employees.

"Our industry does not respect tradition - it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places - as technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it."

Nadella's first tech industry job was with California-based Sun Microsystems. He was hired by Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft in 1992 while he was working on his business degree.

"I used to fly to Chicago Friday nights, attend classes Saturdays and come back to Redmond to work during the week," Nadella said.

It was also about that time that he married a woman he had known since high school. They have been married 22 years and have three children.

When he joined Microsoft, Nadella was one of two Indian employees at a company that had about 160 workers at the time, Indian-American technology entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa wrote in a piece published in the Economic Times.

Wadhwa credited Nadella with helping turn Microsoft's PowerPoint division into a billion-dollar business.

Nadella's Microsoft bio shows stints in research, business, server and online services units.

He is credited with leading Microsoft's shift from the fading packaged software business to the booming market for software offered online as services.

Microsoft built its empire on Windows, Office, Word and other software sold in packages and installed on the vast majority of computers worldwide.

But, a trend to renting software hosted in the internet "cloud" and accessed increasing using smartphones or tablet computers has knocked the legs out from under Microsoft's traditional business model.

For relaxation, Nadella turns to Indian and American poetry, which he likened to complex data being encoded and compressed to express rich ideas in just a couple of lines of words.

He is also a fan of cricket test matches that pit representative teams from countries against one another in games that typically span days.

"I love it," Nadella said of cricket test matches.

"There's so many subplots in it, it's like reading a Russian novel."

In an email to Microsoft workers, Nadella was already rallying his team. He told them that he joined Microsoft to change the world, and that the company has the talent, resources and perseverance to do just that.


Top five items on Nadella's to do list

Nadella will replace Steve Ballmer as its new CEO. Nadella will become only the third leader in the software giant's 38-year history, after founder Bill Gates and Ballmer.
Nadella will replace Steve Ballmer as its new CEO. Nadella will become only the third leader in the software giant's 38-year history, after founder Bill Gates and Ballmer.

Integrate Nokia's mobile device business.

Microsoft's $7.3 billion acquisition will add roughly 30,000 employees to Microsoft's existing 100,000 workers barring some likely layoffs. Nokia, the largest maker of phones that run Microsoft's Windows Phone software, was also believed to be working on a phone that uses Google's Android operating system prior to the acquisition. It's unclear whether Microsoft will cancel the effort in time for the industry conference where Nokia was expected to show off the phone, Mobile World Congress, which starts Feb. 24.

Fix Windows and unite the company's various operating systems.

Windows 8 and the Windows 8.1 upgrade have not revived the PC market as expected. That's mainly because keyboard- and mouse-users have found it difficult to navigate the touch-first ``modern'' interface which uses large tiles. Analysts expect Microsoft to merge its Windows Phone and Windows RT operating system for lightweight tablets into one system to appease software developers and consumers alike, while restoring some familiar navigation tools to the computer-based version of Windows. Look for announcements at the Mobile World Congress or Microsoft's own developers' conference, Build, which starts April 2.

Set a hardware strategy.

Although outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer reorganized Microsoft under a ``devices and services'' strategy in July, those words weren't repeated by Nadella in statements and comments he made as new CEO. Microsoft's Surface tablets have been losing money despite increased sales; the newly released Xbox One is expected to be unprofitable until game sales begin to make up for costly hardware; and Nokia's phone shipments plunged in the latest quarter. Turning these units into contributors to the company's profits or getting rid of them will be one of the many decisions Nadella faces.

Pick a management team.

Microsoft passed over many internal candidates in favor of Nadella, including former Skype head Tony Bates and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner. How Nadella works with them will give an indication of the company's direction going forward.

Work with the board, including Bill Gates.

Nadella asked Microsoft's founder to increase his involvement in the company's products and technology, meaning Gates will relinquish the chairmanship to John Thompson. How Nadella balances his own vision with Gates' could be a challenge. As well, investment fund ValueAct Capital is set to appoint its president, G. Mason Morfit, to Microsoft's board at the company's first quarterly meeting this year. While ValueAct is a booster of the very cloud-computing and enterprise software businesses that Nadella helped to build, the new CEO's relationship with the board and its latest large investor will be important.

AFP with AP

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