Microsoft makes it official: Nadella in as CEO

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

As expected, Microsoft Corp. today officially named veteran insider Satya Nadella as successor to CEO Steve Ballmer, making the 46-year old just the third chief executive in the software giant’s 39-year history.

Nadella, a 22-year Microsoft veteran and champion of the vendor’s all-important cloud strategy, was picked from a list of more than 100 candidates. Nadella had been serving as executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, responsible for building and running the company’s cloud computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services.

“If you were going to pick somebody who is an established Microsoft veteran, Nadella is the guy,” reDesign analyst Rocky Agrawal, a former Microsoft employee, told USA Today. “He seems like the best best. I would have been really disappointed if they had picked Stephen Elop given what happened with Nokia.”

Nadella’s promotion ends five months of speculation that blossomed when Ballmer announced last August he would retire after 33 years with Microsoft, including 13 years as its CEO. In addition to Nadella and Elop, the shortlist for the Microsoft corner office had included, at various times, Skype boss Tony Bates, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mullally, Qualcomm Inc. CEO Steve Mollenkopf, Ericsson AB CEO Hans Vestbergand and VMware Inc. chief executive Pat Gelsinger.

“During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella,” said Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and member of its board of directors. “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.”

A native of Hyderabad, India, the 46-year-old Nadella holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University, a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the University of Chicago. According to Microsoft insiders, Nadella’s background and experience give him significant credibility with the company’s engineering staffers, a big reason why he was tapped for the CEO position.

“Microsoft is one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionized the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the company,” Nadella said. “The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.”

Nadella’s oversaw the team that delivers the cloud-computing platform that supports such services as Office 365, Bing, SkyDrive, Xbox Live, Skype and Dynamics. Prior to running the cloud and enterprise group, Nadella was president of Microsoft’s $19 billion Server and Tools Business and is credited with leading Microsoft’s transition from client-server software to cloud infrastructure and services.

He’s also served as senior vice president of R&D for Microsoft’s Online Services Division and vice president of the company’s Business Division Before joining Microsoft in 1992, Nadella was a member of the technology staff at Sun Microsystems Inc.

“Having worked with him for more than 20 years, I know that Satya is the right leader at the right time for Microsoft,” said Steve Ballmer, who announced last August that he would retire once a successor was named. “I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with the most talented employees and senior leadership team in the industry, and I know their passion and hunger for greatness will only grow stronger under Satya’s leadership.”

Of nearly equal weight in the transition of power at the vendor, Microsoft’s lead independent director John Thompson, who led the CEO search, was tapped to replace founder Bill Gates as board chairman. Thompson, 64, is a long-time IBM Corp. exec who later led Symantec Corp. and now runs Virtual Instruments Inc. He’s been a frequent critic of Microsoft’s strategies in general — and Ballmer’s leadership in particular — since he came to the board in 2012.

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