After a long and arduous search process that in some ways mirrored the company's recent difficulties, Microsoft (MSFT) seems like it's on the verge of naming a new CEO. The choice is expected to be insider Satya Nadella, an Indian born engineer who runs Microsoft's fast-growing cloud and enterprise business. The new CEO may also get a new chairman of the board. Bloomberg reporter Dina Bass, who has been all over this story, wrote yesterday that Bill Gates would likely step aside as chairman and be replaced by former IBMer John Thompson.
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The most important question obviously is whether an insider like Nadella, 46, can make the changes needed at Microsoft to get the company on track for the next decade.
Nadella is a highly regarded engineer who spent his career working on some of the most important Microsoft business units catering to corporate IT deptartments -- but he has no experience with consumer products or marketing. He is known as a great collaborator and a person who keeps his eye on evolving trends and offerings outside of Microsoft's walls so perhaps the consumer gap in his resume won't matter much. Another CEO candidate Tony Bates (who ran Skype) has the type of consumer background that might be critical for the company's future success.
How will Wall Street react? Investors were pretty excited by Ballmer's departure but they seemed to be focused on famous outside candidates like Ford's (F) Alan Mulally and I fear that regardless of Nadella's qualifications there may be a minor selloff due to lack of excitement.
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Nadella is obviously one of Ballmer's guys and that's not a positive on Wall Street.
If these two changes do come to pass it will be a further milestone toward having a more diverse tech management ecosystem. Already IBM (IBM) and H-P (HPQ) are run by women. Nadella would be the second Indian born CEO at a major U.S. company following Indra Nooyi at Pepsi (PEP).
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