Skip to main content

Satya Nadella is the polar opposite of Steve Ballmer – and that’s why he’ll succeed

Take a good look at the new face of Microsoft. That’s Satya Nadella above on the right, and he’s never going to give you a headshot like the infamous tongue-wag that made Steve Ballmer a meme generator staple.

Nadella’s not going to angrily clench his fists and shake visibly on stage with Ballmer’s trademark enthusiastic rage. He’s not going to sweat like an MMA fighter through his £200 dress shirt. He won’t make the menacing two-finger “I’ve got my eyes on you” gesture. What he will do is calmly guide Microsoft along its path to the big, Blue cloud.

Nadella is the ideal choice for leading Microsoft right now. He ran the company’s enterprise and cloud services unit for nearly three years before being announced as CEO. Azure and Office 365 have grown by leaps and bounds during his tenure, which clearly made a big impression on Microsoft’s board members.

In Microsoft’s Q2 financials, Nadella’s Enterprise and Cloud unit posted revenues of $12.7 billion (£7.8 billion). When Nadella took over Server and Tools in 2011, Microsoft didn’t even generate that much revenue in nine months. Everything from Azure to System Centre to Office 365 posted double-digit growth last quarter, and that’s been a regular occurrence under Nadella’s watch.

He’s calm, cool, and considerate. Nadella is known by his co-workers as a collaborator and a team builder — not an intimidating, bat-wielding cartoon villain plotting world domination behind a 7-foot touchscreen display.

His dedication to the company is unquestionable. There’s a very small group of men and women in the tech sector who stick around for more than two decades. Nadella has paid his dues.

As he now takes the corporate reins, Microsoft has already begun shifting focus. The transformation into a devices and services company is well underway, but there’s plenty of work still to be done. His vision is clear: “Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.”

Nadella firmly believes that Microsoft “empower[s] people to do magical things with [their] creations and ultimately make[s] the world a better place.” That’s exactly the kind of blue-sky thinking that Microsoft needs in order to remain relevant in the computing world.

For more on Nadella, see our article on 5 things you should know about Satya Nadella, and our discussion of whether he's planning to spin off the Xbox console, Nokia and Surface tablets.